No easing up of lockdown restrictions
People, who looked forward to the easing up of ECQ restrictions four days from now, were frustrated to hear that current regulations will remain until the second week of May. Residents of Metro Manila, Central Luzon (Region III), Calabarzon (Region IV-A) including the province of Cebu and Cebu City, Antique, Iloilo, Davao del Norte and Davao City are considered high-risk areas and are now under the ambit of the Malacanang-declared ECQ.
People in these areas have no other option but to stay home and follow lockdown protocols because that is how to defeat the dreaded coronavirus. I try to stay optimistic but minus a strong tri-approach of testing, contact tracing and quarantining in the community level, I don’t see lockdown restrictions easing up by the second week of May.
Last Friday’s announcement also came with an instruction directed to local government units: Unilateral lockdown declarations are prohibited unless they are approved by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). Otherwise LGUs risk losing cash assistance from the national government via the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).
Unless this order is meant solely to update the DILG about the situation on the ground so to speak, I don’t quite get the rationale of this memo. Quarantining entire villages and cities are difficult enough decisions for local chief executives to make because it is hard to sustain logistically and puts a terrible strain on the local economy. LCEs arrive at this decision with plenty of data, scientific evidence and economic presentations. Strict implementation of ECQ protocols is a daunting task. Monitoring, testing, contact tracing, distribution of aid and relief goods is not a job of the physically unable and faint-hearted.
By asking DILG approval, does it mean the department will have to validate the basis of the LGU declaration? The Local Government Code of 1991 guarantees genuine and meaningful local autonomy to enable local government units “to attain their fullest development as self-reliant communities and make them more effective partners in the attainment of national goals”. I hope the DILG instruction will not translate to another bureaucratic layer because there is a public health crisis going on and we cannot afford to waste time.
The total lockdown in Barangay Luz has impacted on the lives of tens of thousands of people living in that urban barangay but unknown to many it has also upended the lives of some affluent families whose service workers reside in that area. I gathered this from a social media report of Mr. Edwin Ortiz, a prominent businessman and local tourism advocate who figured in a traffic-related incident involving policemen assigned in M. Velez Street in uptown Cebu City.
According to Mr. Ortiz’s Facebook post, he went out last Saturday to buy medicines and vitamins. Such errands were usually done by the family driver who lives in Barangay Luz but after this village was placed under total lockdown Mr. Ortiz was left with no other option but to do the task himself. What was supposed to be a simple errand turned out to be a nightmarish experience when the businessman encountered a traffic problem in M. Velez street on his way home. The traffic signs in the area were said to be confusing so he tried to seek the help of traffic policemen in the area. The details of this encounter with two policemen as narrated by Mr. Ortiz in his FB account are still up but there are highlights worth repeating here.
One, instead of getting advice from the traffic policemen, Mr. Ortiz was slapped with “reckless driving” a serious traffic violation that caused his license’s OR to be confiscated. Two, Mr. Ortiz called up Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera asking him to reason with the policeman who refused to budge. In another time and place, the intervention of an incumbent official over a problem would placate antagonists and protagonists alike but nowadays it seems it does not amount for anything much anymore. I wonder if the policeman impressed upon Councilor Garganera the importance of his supposed duty in the time of the pandemic because that’s how the local official summed up the situation to Mr. Ortiz by way of explaining why he can’t help him. Three, the policeman who took the license’s OR refused to identify himself and even scrawled scratches over his supposed signature on the TOP to hide his identity. This is evidence captured by Mr. Ortiz’ phone camera.
Sensing that the situation could get out of hand if he insisted in getting back his license’s OR, he left the area. That night his sense of justice robbed him of sleep. A friend who got wind of his trouble set up a meeting with the policeman in the office of his superior, Lt. Col. Robert Lingbawan, officer-in-charge of the Regional Intelligence Division, PRO-7 in Camp Sergio Osmena. The meeting took place last Wednesday and Mr. Ortiz updated his friends about the status of the case via a FB post complete with pictures.
Interestingly, he was not in the company of a lawyer in the territory of the police personnel. The policeman who took his license’s OR was identified as De Lara. The other policeman, who allegedly told the former to issue a TOP was identified as Officer de los Reyes. Because De Lara was apologetic and promised to help Mr. Ortiz get back his license’s OR, he told Lieutenant Colonel Lingbawan he will not be pressing charges against the erring policemen and allow RID superiors to handle the issue.
I can understand why Mr. Ortiz wishes to put this unpleasant experience behind him but unless he files a formal complaint, the policeman’s apology does not achieve the objective he set out when he aired this issue publicly — to expose and bring to justice the arrogance and immorality of some policemen. /dbs
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