VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte flip-flops on power of local gov’t in handling COVID-19

Read this fact check in Filipino

In just four days, President Rodrigo Duterte went from telling local officials that they don't need permission to implement ordinances to prevent the spread of COVID-19, to “ordering” them to “stand down” and obey.

STATEMENT

In a press conference on March 19, Duterte called on local government officials not to make the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon island “more difficult for people than it already is” by setting its own standards, such as restricting the flow of cargo.

The president then said:

“I am ordering all LGUs (local government units) that are doing this to stand down, and to abide by the directives of the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases)...the task force, and those issued by the Office of the President. And to make sure that what the IATF says should be closed, is closed, and those that should be open, stays open.”

Source: Presidential Communications Operations Office, Message of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to local government units on the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, March 19, 2020, watch from 4:12 to 5:35

He added:

“You know, the only reason why you (local officials) can impose these quarantine restrictions and impose it on everyone passing [through] your areas, is because the national government is allowing you to do so. But 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 and [cooperate] fully. Criminal cases cannot be far behind.”

Duterte further urged local leaders “not try to overdo things or think you can do what you want to do because that is not allowed.”

FLIPFLOP

Just three days earlier, the president, in a speech on March 16 -- where he placed the country under a State of Public Health Emergency -- said mayors can “go ahead” and issue executive orders to make their respective municipalities “more conducive to a healing process.”

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Duterte, who was former mayor of Davao City for over two decades, said “given the national situation,” local chief executives need not wait for the go signal of city councils and the like, adding:

“Just go ahead and the mayor will do it for us...para wala masyadong (so there's not a lot of) ruckus, walang (no) debate, isa lang (just one) --- one line lang ngayon, mayor lang muna (only one person, the mayor). And he can come up with any measure to protect public health, public interest, public order, public safety and whatever is needed to make life more livable in your place.”

Source: Presidential Communications Office, Guidance of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), March 16, 2020 watch from 11:21 to 12:05

He said this was to speed up action during the State of Public Health Emergency, arguing that there is no longer a need for ordinances as long as officials “enforce the laws that are laid down” by the national government.

Duterte did not specify which local official or LGU he was pertaining to in his March 19 speech.

His change of stance, however, coincided with the controversial decision of Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto on March 17 to allow tricycles to operate despite the ban on public transport during the quarantine.

Two days later, Department of Interior and Local Government Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said such a decision would “defeat the purpose” of the quarantine. In an interview with Philstar.com, Malaya said Pasig was the “only [LGU] that has not complied with the directive of the president.”

Sotto said he did not defy the orders of the national government, adding that tricycles were needed to make up for the lack of services the local government can provide to transport health workers and patients safely and on time.

In a March 25 radio interview, Police Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar said the Philippine National Police has encountered several LGUs that release policies that are “too tight” and restrict the flow of cargo.

The “Bayanihan to Heal as One” Act, passed through a special session of Congress and signed by Duterte on March 23, granted the president additional powers, including the ability to regulate traffic on all roads, and oversight over LGUs to make sure that their ordinances are implemented within the standards of the community quarantine set by the national government.


Sources

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Message of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to local government units on the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, March 19, 2020

Presidential Communications Office, Guidance of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), March 16, 2020

Vico Sotto, We're using our vehicles but it's NOT enough, March 17, 2020

ABS-CBN News, Vico Sotto says Pasig to follow gov't ban on tricycles, March 19, 2020

GMA News Online, DILG to Vico Sotto: Check ways of other LGUs in transporting health workers, March 18, 2020

Rappler, ‘Wag na lang mag-quarantine,’ DILG says if tricycles are exempted from ban, March 19, 2020

Philstar.com, DILG on Vico Sotto's appeal to exempt trikes: Be more creative in dealing with COVID-19, March 18, 2020

Jeff Canoy, Sotto: Hindi po tayo nagde-defy, March 18, 2020

ABS-CBN News, Cargo movement impeded by LGU policies: PNP | DZMM, March 24, 2020

Official Gazette, Republic Act 11469


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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