Briones: Having the last word

Again, Malacañang and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases are not playing fair.

Because the law, specifically Section 105 of the Local Government Code, prohibits the national government from imposing its mandate on local government units after a period of six months during an emergency situation like a pandemic, Malacañang decided to circumvent it instead.

I’m not saying it can’t do that because it just did when it again diverted international flights bound for the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Malacañang issued an extension of the diversion until 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, June 12, 2021.

Its reason? It wanted to give the MCIA time to follow protocols set by the IATF for arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs).

Oh wait! The national government is not even circumventing the law; it is now blatantly breaking it.

I’m not a lawyer, so Malacañang may have found a loophole that allows it to ignore Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia’s guidelines for international arrivals even though she and Cebu are entitled to set them, based on Section 105 of the LGC.

But I doubt it.

Even the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu chapter passed a resolution on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, “requesting concerned government agencies to adopt the swab-upon-arrival policy of Cebu.”

Also on Tuesday, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III expressed his support for the governor’s Executive Order 17, which had been passed into law by the Provincial Board.

According to Sotto, who, by the way, traces his roots to Cebu, Garcia’s policy is “a win-win situation for both the OFWs and ROFs and the government” as it is “an innovative, safe and reasonable protocol, especially for our OFWs.”

If that’s the case, then why are Malacañang and the IATF insisting on getting the last word on the matter?

They seem to ignore the fact that Cebu’s policy actually eases the financial burden of ROFs and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the government agency that pays for the quarantine hotels of OFWs.

Is it because the idea came from Cebu, which is governed by a female governor? Or are there national government officials who benefit from the IATF’s protocol?

Either way, the impasse reminds me of a race to have the final say. And although Malacañang and IATF appear to have won this round, we all know it isn’t over yet.

The administration of Rodrigo Duterte has had the support of the majority of Cebuanos since he announced that he was running for President. He, too, traces his roots to Cebu.

So how come I don’t hear him standing up for Cebu?