Duterte: ‘I will not obey the courts’ on how to manage COVID-19 outbreak

John Gabriel Agcaoili, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 22 2021 12:56 AM

Duterte: ‘I will not obey the courts’ on how to manage COVID-19 outbreak 1
Passengers wearing hazmat suits queue at the departure area of Ninoy Aquino International Airport amid the COVID-19 outbreak, in Pasay June 1, 2021. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday stood pat on his administration's handling of the COVID-19 crisis in the Philippines to the point he will defy courts if their orders contradict his approach.

Duterte in a taped public briefing said that since the COVID-19 pandemic is a public health emergency and containing it is of national interest, he told courts not to issue decrees that will stand in the way of government's coronavirus response.

He warned there will be an "impasse" between them, saying he doesn't want to "lock horns" with the judiciary.

"I will not obey the courts now in the management of the pandemic. I do not want anybody from any government agency or department messing up with a situation, which is being managed, because it is very dangerous to the country," Duterte said.

Earlier this month, three government agencies signed a joint memorandum circular that provides for guidelines on how to implement health protocols in the Philippines, with the goal of harmonizing the enforcement of laws and ordinances. 

The heads of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police all took part in the ceremonial signing of the 5-page guidelines, which will apply in all areas nationwide, regardless of quarantine classification 

Under the guidelines, each agency is reminded of its existing mandates.

But missing from the guidelines is a crucial provision on how to resolve potential conflicts between national laws and local ordinances or between varying protocols among localities. 

Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia's previous executive order in her province, which requires immediate testing upon arrival and release from hotel quarantine if the RT-PCR test turned out negative, contradicted IATF protocols that require testing of arriving passengers on the 7th day of their 14-day quarantine upon arrival.

Health Sec. Francisco Duque III noted that IATF implementing units in Cebu were fearful that Garcia will bring them to court for still following IATF rules as opposed to her order.

Due to this, Duterte directed Cebu to follow national COVID-19 protocols as he met with Garcia to thresh out differences.

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