Cebu’s optional face mask rule stays; Garcia warns vs arrest of ‘unmasked’
MANILA, Philippines — Cebu’s optional rule on the use of face masks in open and well-ventilated spaces stays, Governor Gwen Garcia said Monday, warning that apprehension of those “unmasked” in the province may be “illegal.”
Garcia stood by her executive order after it faced criticism from Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.
“The order stays,” Garcia told ANC in an interview. “I think, perhaps, Sec. Año was not fully informed of the contents of Executive Order No. 16. It merely states that in open, well-ventilated areas, the use of masks shall be optional.”
“Optional is the operative word here. Those who wish to continue wearing their masks, by all means, they can do that. However, we need to rationalize the use of these face masks,” she said.
“If you are in a well-ventilated, open environment, and especially when the use of face mask already is an added burden, like your walking on the street on a very hot day, or you are biking or jogging or even when you wish to avail of the beneficial benefits of sea air or fresh air up in the mountains, are we going to continue using these face masks?” she added.
Earlier, Año said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) does not recognize Garcia’s order since there are prevailing guidelines set by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on the use of face masks.
At present, IATF guidelines “allow only for specific instances when masks can be taken off, such as when eating or during certain well-ventilated sports and activities,” according to Año.
The DILG chief also said the police “will continue to confront, apprehend, and arrest, if necessary, all violators” of IATF’s face mask guidelines and the minimum public health standards in Cebu province.
“In the province of Cebu, the non-wearing of face masks is not against the law or against any local ordinance. If the police would be apprehending these people, they might be accused of illegal arrest,” Garcia, however, stressed.
“It is just so easy to release statements. But let us do so under the existing laws. Let us not go ahead and make threatening remarks without fully studying,” she added.
“There is no legal basis and I will stand for that. There is no legal basis for apprehending people that are outside in open, well-ventilated areas not wearing face masks if they opt, if they choose [not to],” she further said.
She also said that the guidelines set by the IATF “need to be supported with local ordinances in the respective local government units.”
“So what basis will the PNP apprehend? What law would these so-called ‘unfacemasked’ walking in the open environments [or] violators, be violating? We don’t have these ordinances in the province of Cebu,” Garcia added.
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