Ilocos Sur IATF ops center closes, governor relinquishes chairmanship to PNP

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Gov. Ryan Singson said that since the matter is about the life, safety and welfare of his constituents, the province cannot afford to consult, ask and wait for the PNP. According to him, the reason why the provincial director of the Interior and Local Government is part of the IATF is to ensure that their decisions are compliant with national directives.

By SHERWIN DE VERA
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — The Ilocos Sur Provincial Government started pulling out equipment from the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases operations center, April 16.

Provincial Administrator Cara Tabios confirmed the closure of the operations center at the Gregoria M. Rivera Memorial Provincial Library to Nordis.

The move came a day after Ilocos Sur Governor Ryan Singson’s resignation as the IATF chairperson. His decision stemmed from the refusal of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to allow the entry of distressed Ilocos Sur residents from other places despite the guidelines from the local IATF.

During the April 15 provincial IATF meeting, an irked Singson said that since the police are the ones deciding who can enter the checkpoints, regardless of his orders and decisions of the local IATF, then they should head the task force. He then recommended Provincial Police Office Officer-in-Charge PCol. Ismael Yu, to take on the post.

Behind the scenes

On April 13, the provincial IATF released a guideline for returning residents. The local policy applies to displaced workers, stranded students, discharged patients, and distressed overseas workers.

Those who would avail of the opening are subject to strict quarantine conditions and procedures. These include routine temperature checks at the border and proof of residence. They are also required to fill up a Health Declaration Form.

Concerning the new policy, the IATF required towns and cities to designate quarantine facilities to ensure the mandatory 14-day quarantine period. Local government units (LGUs) will provide vehicles for the returning residents and ferry them directly to the quarantine centers from the border.

Returning individuals can only leave after completing the mandatory quarantine and issuance of certification from the municipal health office. Meanwhile, the ban on tourists and non-residents remains.

However, on April 14, after giving instructions to the mayors to look into their returning constituents, Singson learned the PNP checkpoint did not allow the individuals to enter. The returning residents were made to spend overnight at a holding place in Bio, Tagudin town. They were allowed entry through their respective LGU vehicles afternoon of April 15.

Nod from higher-ups

Police Capt. Omar David, chief of Tagudin Municipal Police Station, said that confusion arising from the local policy and national directives caused the problem.

“Noong bumaba ang order ninyo [Governor Singson], nagtanong po kami. Kasi noong una po nagbaba ang national headquarters namin ng specific guidelines kaugnay sa authorized persons outside residence (APOR) and unauthorized persons outside residence (UPOR). Nagbigay din po ang national IATF ng guidelines na all those returning to their residence are no longer allowed so nagkaroon po tayo ng problema,” he explained.

(When we received your [Governor Singson] directive, we had to ask. There was already an order from the [PNP] national headquarters on specific guidelines regarding authorized persons outside residence (APOR) and unauthorized persons outside residence (UPOR). The national IATF also issued a guideline that says all returning residents will no longer be allowed. That’s where we had a problem.)

According to him, when they referred the matter to the PNP Regional Office, their superior said there should be an executive order. He added that their operations office also advised them to hold the implementation of the guidelines.

“The previous guidelines provided for the PNP ay national IATF lamang ang susundin, so we need to ask clearance from higher-ups,” David said.

(The previous guidelines provided for the PNP indicated that only the national IATF should be followed, so we needed to ask clearance from higher-ups.)

Yu admitted their personnel guarding the checkpoints are confused and there have been lapses. According to him, instructions from higher command was to follow and implement the orders coming from the national IATF.

He also confirmed that policy and directives passed by the local IATF to the PNP still needs the confirmation of the regional director before they can enforce.

To this, Singson asked where the local autonomy of the province comes in. He noted that based on the statement of the two police officials, all directives from the local ITAF should still get the approval of the PNP regional director.

“Itong guidelines na ito napagusapan last week. So ang lumalabas po, kahit magmeeting tayo, after ng meeting, paglabas ng command center ay hindi naman pala nasusunod. So anong purpose ng meeting ng isang inter-agency task force kung isang ahensiya lang ang mag-aapprove ng guidelines?” the governor added.

(These guidelines have been discussed last week. What is clear here: even if we meet after this meeting, once we leave this command center, [the said guidelines] will not be followed. So what then is the purpose of an inter-agency task force meeting if only agency’s approval is needed?)

He said that since the matter is about the life, safety and welfare of his constituents, the province cannot afford to consult, ask and wait for the PNP. According to him, the reason why the provincial director of the Interior and Local Government is part of the IATF is to ensure that their decisions are compliant with national directives.

Welfare of constituents

Singson stressed during the meeting that his responsibility is to ensure the welfare of his constituents. He said this includes those who stranded and facing difficulties outside the province.

“Bilang governor, ito ang nakita kong paraan para makauwi sila, ngayon haharangin ninyo. So nasaan ngayon ang desisyon ng isang governor para makatulong sa kanyang kababayan kung hindi ninyo naman io-honor ang guidelines na ginagawa namin,” an irate governor said.

(As governor, this is the only method I saw that will allow them to come home, but then you [PNP] don’t let them enter. What then is the use of a governor’s decision to help his constituents if you will not even honor the guidelines that we are making?)

Singson was referring to displaced workers and about 40 students in Baguio City who sought his assistance to return to the province. According to him, the individuals reported that they want to return to the province because they no longer have work, money and food.

He said that he is ready to face jail time if his for his decision to let his distressed constituents return to the province.

“Gusto kong pabalikin yung mga kababayan naming nahihirapan na sa Manila, sa mga ibang lugar, yung mga estudyanteng gusto na umuwi dahil walang makain. Iuuwi ko sila dahil yan ang tama at dapat kong gawin,” he said.

(I want our fellow Ilocanos who are facing hardships in Manila and other places, and those students without nothing to eat, to return home. I will bring them home because that is the right and the only thing to do.)

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