‘LGUs have local autonomy,’ Palace official told amid face shield rule debate

November 11, 2021 - 5:00 PM
People wear face masks and face shields amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Manila, Philippines, December 17, 2020. (Reuters/Lisa Marie David)

A provincial chief executive reminded a government official of the autonomy of local government units following the differing decisions of some LGU leaders and the national government on the face shield policy.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas made this statement in response  to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque who said that the implementation of the face shield policy is retained and that some LGUs’ directive to drop the face shield use is “null and void.”

“Null and void siya for being in violation of an existing executive policy decreed by the President himself in the exercise of police powers,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.

Iloilo City earlier joined the cities of Manila, Tarlac, Davao and Cebu in removing the mandatory wearing of face shields in their jurisdictions.

READ: Manila vs Metro Manila difference explained amid confusion over face shield advisories

“Harry Roque came up with the theory that all LGUs must follow the chain of command. As a local chief executive, the Local Government Code provides that local governments have local autonomy,” Treñas said.

Treñas also stood firm in his earlier decision of suspending the provisions in their ordinance on wearing face shields.

He noted that the policy on face shields is not backed by science.

“Under a pandemic, the LGUs all comply with all health standards, but the matter of the face shield is not backed by medical or scientific studies,” he said.

Moreover, the Iloilo City Mayor also pointed out to Roque the city’s concern with the current alert level status.

“I also bring to the attention of Harry Roque that Iloilo City has appealed the Alert Level status of Iloilo City. Under the DOH reports, we are ranked the last in terms of Alert Levels. We are most urgently requesting Harry Roque to please take up the appeal of Iloilo City so that we will also slowly recover from this pandemic,” he said.

“I wish Harry Roque a good day,” the mayor concluded.

This statement was later reposted on the discussion forum r/Philippines on November 10.

Most Reddit users praised the Iloilo City official for schooling Roque on the autonomy of LGUs by law.

Others noticed the scathing way Treñas ended his statement.

“Last sentence was subtly brutal. malamang nabuga ni harry milk tea niya habang binabasa to,” one Reddit user said.

“Kelangan natin ng mga compassionate at competent leaders. Pero kelangan din natin nung marunong sa savage pero classy na trash talk-an. Yung marunong mang api ng mga mapang-api. Hindi yung tatahimik lang,” another said.

Revisiting the Local Government Code

The policies and principles of the local government units are specified under the Local Government Code of 1991.

The LGU’s local autonomy is stated under Section 2-a, wherein:

“It is hereby declared the policy of the State that the territorial and political subdivisions of the State shall enjoy genuine and meaningful local autonomy to enable them to attain their fullest development as self-reliant communities and make them more effective partners in the attainment of national goals.”

The coverage of the powers of the LGU are specified in Section 4, saying:

“This Code shall apply to all provinces, cities, municipalities, barangays, and other political subdivisions as may be created by law, and, to the extent herein provided, to officials, offices, or agencies of the national government.”

Roque vs DILG

Last Monday, November 8, Metro Manila mayors recommended scrapping the face shield protocol among their constituents.

Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso also issued an executive order removing the rules to require the wearing of face shields in the nation’s capital.

The Palace official, however, stressed that LGUs should wait for the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and then made the “null and void” remark.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año later countered this claim of Roque, saying LGUs can enact their own ordinances and executive orders on face shields.

Moreno on Tuesday also remained firm with his decision on doing away with wearing face shields.

He further said that national officials can “go to court” if they were to force LGUs to reimpose the protocol.

In a previous interview with Interaksyon, University of Santo Tomas Civil law instructor, Enrique Dela Cruz, pointed out that national and local ordinances should prevail over the IATF protocols.

“Yung protocol kasi ng IATF guidelines lang siya, wala siyang parusa, wala siyang penalty, kasi hindi siya batas,” Dela Cruz said in June.

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