DILG: Optional use of face masks translates to graft

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has taken the position that the optional use of face masks may be a ground for graft under Executive Order (EO) 151 that sets the nationwide alert level system.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año is reportedly still hopeful a “remedy” will be made by the Cebu provincial government, which he gave until the weekend to rectify its EO 16 issued by Gov. Gwen Garcia on June 8.

Año noted that Cebu’s order also contradicts EOs 168 and 1218 and Republic Act (RA) 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.

Año explained that EO 1218 is a declaration of state of calamity; EO 168 adopts measures to strengthen the Emerging and Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) Program of the Department of Health (DOH) or its equivalent in other local health units and to formulate, develop, implement, and oversee the EID Preparedness Manual; and RA 11332 mandates the DOH to formulate and implement necessary health protocols.

He said the most glaring violation is against EO 151. “The national law, including executive orders, cannot be superseded by any local government executive order or ordinance. Otherwise, that is considered a graft practice and they will be accountable for that,” he added.

Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) deputy chief implementor, Secretary Vince Dizon, said that in creating policies, they are in constant consultation with experts.

“Throughout the pandemic, that has been the rule of the IATF, the NTF (National Task Force Against Covid-19), and the President,” Dizon sstressed, adding that IATF has discussed the idea of non-masking outdoors but experts told them it is still best to err on the side of caution.

“And it is an irrefutable fact that the mask is the most effective way to prevent transmission of Covid-19,” Dizon added.

Senator Sonny Angara called on the national government and Garcia on Wednesday to iron out their differences on the enforcement of the mask mandate. He said he understands Garcia’s sentiments over the issue, since Cebu is heavily dependant on tourism revenues.

Garcia reasoned that the IATF resolutions are merely “recommendatory in nature” and that it recognizes that its resolutions are neither equivalent to laws created and passed by Congress nor any executive order.