Cebu lawyers’ case vs IATF welcome, but national policies legally binding – DOJ chief
MANILA, Philippines — The case filed by Cebu-based lawyers seeking to stop the national government’s COVID-19 quarantine protocols from being implemented in their province is “most welcome,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Tuesday.
However, Guevarra reminded that resolutions from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) — which placed the 10-day mandatory quarantine for passengers arriving in the country from abroad — were legally binding.
“The filing of a case by the Cebu lawyers is most welcome. It provides a judicial forum for the settlement of an important legal issue that may crop up again in the future. The OSG [Office of the Solicitor General] will handle the case for the government,” the Guevarra told reporters.
“But let me say now that IATF resolutions acquire legally binding force because they are adopted by the president through an enabling executive order. As such, these IATF resolutions apply with equal force in every nook and cranny of our country,” he added.
The issue stemmed from a petition filed by lawyers at the Cebu City Regional Trial Court requesting it to deem the IATF’s quarantine policy ineffective.
The lawyers were referring to IATF’s Resolution 114, amended by Resolution No. 116, which requires arriving Filipinos to go under quarantine for 10 days and be tested for COVID-19 only on the seventh day, to ensure that any possibility of infection will be monitored and contained.
The petition reflects the view of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, who has passed a resolution requiring testing on arrival and only a three-day quarantine — which ultimately was the reason why flights to the Mactan-Cebu International Airport were diverted to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
But in his Monday night briefing, Duterte said that he would not obey any court order that might stem from the issue, adding that this was not an ordinary issue because the country’s survival was at stake.
“I don’t want to lock horns with the judiciary. I said I respect it. But there are times that, you know… the courts can function normally and maybe grant injunctions,” Duterte said, speaking partly in Filipino. “But this time, I said they are put on notice that I will not be stopped. I will not obey the courts in the matter now of managing the pandemic.”
Guevarra also stressed that the IATF was created by Duterte, making it a qualified agency that acts on behalf of the president.
“Its actions are the actions of the president, unless reprobated by the latter,” Guevarra explained.
“Therefore, all local government officials, who are constitutionally under the supervision of the president, must align their policies, resolutions, and ordinances in accordance with the directives of the chief executive. otherwise, there will be chaos and disorder in our society,” he added.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.