Conflicts in policy implementation: Which should be supreme, local ordinance or IATF protocol?

June 25, 2021 - 12:56 PM
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President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on September 14, 2020. (Presidential photo/Karl Norman Alonzo)

In the past few days, a clash arose between the local ordinance of Cebu and Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases’ protocols over quarantine requirements for returning Filipino workers to the province.

On Tuesday, however, Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia suddenly deferred the local ordinance and decided to follow the national guideline in respect to the chief executive.

Before that, at an event streamed live on Facebook, Garcia argued that the IATF doesn’t have jurisdiction over Cebu, which enjoys local autonomy.

Based on Cebu’s local ordinance, arriving Filipinos from abroad have to take a swab test upon arrival. Those who test negative for COVID-19 may quarantine at home. The IATF protocol, on the other hand, requires a 10-day quarantine for arriving Filipinos and a COVID test on the seventh day.

At a Senate hearing on June 15, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said local government units must conform with the national policy.

Last Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte also said Cebu could not be exempted from the policies of the IATF.

But Cebu was not the first LGU that deviated from IATF’s prescriptions. Last year, Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto temporarily allowed tricycles to ply the city to take people to their places of work, countering the national government’s suspension of trike operations.

READ: Vico Sotto temporarily allows tricycles in Pasig for people reporting to work amid quarantine

Local vs national

In an interview with Interaksyon, University of Santo Tomas Civil law instructor Enrique Dela Cruz said the local ordinance of Cebu should prevail over the IATF protocol.

He said, “national law trumps local laws. The national law is superior over the provincial ordinance.” However, he clarified that the policies of the IATF are not laws.

“If a national policy which is not embodied in a law and is in conflict with local ordinance, then the local ordinance prevails,” Dela Cruz emphasized.

“Yung protocol kasi ng IATF guidelines lang siya, wala siyang parusa, wala siyang penalty, kasi hindi siya batas,” he added.

But Dela Cruz explained that a local government unit could pass an ordinance even if it is not exactly aligned with the national policy set by the IATF.

He cited the IATF policies on curfew and face shields as an example, saying that their implementation varies from one local ordinance to another.

“There are certain systems in our government based on hierarchy and I think the national government feels slighted that someone lower is interfering with national policy,” Dela Cruz, also an expert on public policy said.

“It is really offensive to someone who believes that hierarchy is vertical na silang nasa national ang mas mataas kesa sa local,” he said.

Dela Cruz disagrees with this thinking, citing that Article 27 of the Local Government Code says national programs or policies cannot be implemented in the local unit unless two requisites are present.

These conditions include the prior consultation with the community and prior approval of the concerned Sanggunian.