‘Stand down’: Duterte orders LGUs to follow IATF orders on Luzon lockdown

Sofia Tomacruz
‘Stand down’: Duterte orders LGUs to follow IATF orders on Luzon lockdown

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'There is only one republic here, the Republic of the Philippines, and therefore, you should abide by the directives of the national government,' says President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines –  President Rodrigo Duterte warned local officials struggling to enforce a Luzon-wide lockdown to follow all the national government’s orders, or risk facing administrative cases. 

Duterte made the apparent show of authority as he warned local government units (LGUs) the national emergency brought by the coronavirus crisis meant “it is the national government that should call the shots.”

“At this time, let us make ourselves clear that we are not separate from a republic or from each other. There is only one republic here, the Republic of the Philippines, and therefore, you should abide by the directives of the national government when it sets…the directives…for the good of the country,” Duterte said in briefing past midnight on Friday, March 20.  

“I am ordering all LGUs that are doing this to stand down and to abide by the directives of the IATF, the task force (on coronavirus)…and those issued by the Office of the President,” he added.  

Duterte issued the call in a recorded statement broadcasted past 1 am on Friday, hours after his spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced it would be aired at around 9 pm.  

The President’s call followed several executive officials’ moves to reject Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto’s appeal to exempt tricycles from travel restriction placed on public utility vehicles. 

Sotto had earlier allowed tricycles to make “limited trips to move essential workers exempted from the travel ban, and those in need of medical care who do not have their own cars.

Before Duterte made the statement, he also told officials to ensure the flow of food and cargo would go unhampered, as directed by the government’s coronavirus task force. 

What will happen if local officials fail to follow Duterte?  

The President warns: “If you go beyond the standards that we have set, you are abusing your authority and you know that it can lead to administrative cases or even worse, unless you stop what you are doing,” Duterte said. 

Duterte ordered both the Department of Justice and Department of the Interior and Local government to closely monitor local officials and file cases against concerned officials. 

“Criminal cases cannot be far behind,” he said. 

Duterte then reminded LGUs to ensure their actions were “consistent” with national directives since “to do otherwise would sow confusion.”  

“Let our country lead the way in imposing a lockdown strict enough to effectively kill COVID-19, liberal enough so our people will not die of hunger, and orderly enough so that our country will not be driven towards chaos in this difficult time,” he said.  

Why this matters. The Philippine government has put in place a series of stringent social distancing measures, including ordering over 57 million people to stay home to quell the spread of the coronavirus in the Philippines.  

But on the ground, local governments have been left to figure out how exactly they would be implemented, as guidelines on the lockdown continued to be relayed piecemeal. Among the crucial tasks given to local officials included finding ways to ensure residents were fed and essential workers could be brought to their workplace.  

The Philippines has reported 217 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 8 recoveries and 17 deaths.

The global death toll due to the virus has surpassed 9,000 while at least 217,000 people were infected across 157 countries. – Rappler.com 

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.