Do LGUs Have The Authority To Lift Mask Mandates?

We write this FAQ today in reaction to the conflicting responses regarding the lifting of the masking mandates in Cebu Province [see Face Masks Outdoors No Longer Required In Cebu Province].

On one hand, is Cebu Provincial board issuing support for the controversial executive order (EO) released by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia regarding the optional use of masks in open spaces. On the other is Interior Secretary Eduardo Año warning Gov. Garcia that her EO violates the country’s anti-graft law.

To answer the question posted above, we had to look at the role and mandate of the IATF, as well as the responsibilities and authorities of local government units (LGUs).

Under RA 7160 in 1991, also known as the Local Government Code (LGC), LGUs are several government services that were devolved to the LGUs. One of the first national agencies to be devolved is the Department of Health (DOH).

Meanwhile, the Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2021-1 issued by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) offered guidance on the creation of transition plans for full devolution based on the provisions of the LGC. The new circular determined that health services including hospitals and other tertiary health services are devolved to the LGU. It also required LGUs to establish a local disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM).

This meant that in normal circumstances, the LGU would have direct authority to govern medical policies in their areas.

But because of the State of Calamity declared by President Rodrigo Duterte last September 2020, the Inter-Agency Taskforce gained authority over the whole country.

The State of Calamity continues to be in effect up to September 12, 2022, which is why Sec. Año thinks he has jurisdiction over Gov. Garcia.

What he does not know is that the State of Calamity proclamation over the Philippines can be questioned. The declaration of State of Calamity has very clear guidelines, and as of today, none of these guidelines are being met.

In fact, LGUs can now ask the National Government to lift the State of Calamity proclaimed over the Philippines because there is no emergency that warrants this declaration. Prolonging the State of Calamity means that the country has failed in responding to the crisis. Is this the signal that Duterte wants to make?

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