ONE indication that the government is not prepared in dealing with the state of national public health emergency declared by President Duterte last week is the way the local governments of Metro Manila handled the situation, specifically concerning the imposition of curfew. This bungling is also the reason why many netizens criticized Malacanang for what they perceive as a crisis in communication, in which government officials in various levels and command are issuing conflicting statements.
First, the Metro Manila Council composed of the 17 mayors of the National Capital Region convened and passed a resolution enjoining all the local government units in the National Capital Region to pass their respective ordinances imposing the curfew, from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next day. The MMC is headed by Paranaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez as chairman. Of course, a metro-wide curfew cannot just be imposed arbitrarily. First, the city or town council should pass the ordinance, then the mayor should sign it. The approved ordinance will have to be published in newspapers of general circulation, and will take effect three days later.
In the city of Manila, therefore, the curfew is not in effect when Mayor Francisco Domagoso announced it in his Facebook page. If the approved ordinance will be published on Monday, March 16, the actual curfew is to take effect at 8 p.m. on March 19.
Meanwhile, San Juan being the place where the Coronavirus Disease or COVID-19 broke in Metro Manila (at a public prayer hall for Muslims in Greenhills Shopping Center) is way ahead of the others in taking the necessary precautionary biosecurity measures such as closure of malls and imposition of curfew.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo was hurting when he disputed the netizens who were criticizing the government for miscommunication. He said the Metro Manila Council’s resolution was recommendatory in nature, so that Presidential Communications Chief Martin Andanar was correct when he announced that there was no curfew yet because the needed ordinances were not yet approved and put into effect.
Then, there’s Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año saying on Sunday that he hopes the 17 Metro Manila local government units will have uniform curfew hours by today, March 16, in accordance with the resolution issued by the Metro Manila Council. Under the Metro Manila Council resolution, the proposed curfew in all Metro Manila cities will be from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning March 15 until April 14. These mayors should have known that you cannot start a Metro Manila curfew if you adopt the policy on March 14 and hope to begin the curfew the next day. There are just too many legal restrictions to hurdle.
Turning to the issue of checkpoints to implement Duterte’s community quarantine policy, it is somewhat opportune that the first day of implementation was a Sunday when traffic was light. For the first time, the 10-minute drive from Cubao to Makati promised by Duterte was realized. The next day, Monday, when employees and workers living outside Metro Manila return to work in the NCR will be the day when authorities and the public can see and experience the problems of a semi-closure of the metropolis. Año himself admitted that they have yet to make a concrete assessment on the effects of the community quarantine to the mobility of people, the business community, services, trade, and commerce.
Perhaps it is in this regard that the policy of community quarantine – which effectively is a semi-lockdown – is great because it includes the day-to-day review of its implementation by the task force or committee charged with implementing it.