MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he will not heed any court order suspending the enforcement of health protocols against COVID-19, saying the pandemic and its management was of the national interest.
During a meeting with some of his Cabinet officials on Monday night, Duterte said that as a lawyer, he respects the judiciary but he will disobey them if they order to stop the imposition of health protocols.
“I am a lawyer, I respect the judiciary, I can assure them that we will follow the orders but at this time of a national emergency, I would just like to inform the courts that I will not follow them,” he said.
“I will insist on what is necessary to protect the people. It is not what the legal book says about the matter of stopping the protocols, the requirements by law,” he added.
Duterte’s statement comes after two lawyers from Cebu took the national government to court over its policy on the testing and quarantine of returning overseas Filipinos. The lawyers urged a regional court to declare the government’s policy for inbound passengers as not applicable in the province.
Cebu had been administering RT-PCR tests on returning nationals upon their arrival at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.
This is contrary to the IATF protocols, which requires arriving Filipinos to undergo a 10-day facility-based quarantine plus 4 days at home and then take an RT-PCR test on the seventh day of their arrival.
“The courts are put on notice that what we have there is a national policy. That is why we came up with a proclamation declaring that this pandemic is of national interest,” the president said.
“So yung mga korte hindi naman sa inyo, huwag niyo na ipalabas (yung order) kasi magkakaroon ng impasse,” he added.
“I don’t want to lock horns with the judiciary but there’s always a time when the courts can function normally and maybe grant an injunction,” Duterte went on.
In the same meeting, doctors advising the task force stressed that the current protocols are the safest and more effective in detecting infections among passengers.
Dr. Edsal Salvana, one of the task force’s advisers said that testing an individual upon arrival would not be effective in detecting infections if the travelers caught the virus while in transit.
Duterte earlier directed the provincial government of Cebu to adhere to the COVID-19 testing and quarantine protocols set by the national government.
But he now wants the Department of the Interior and Local Government to deal with Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia if she continues to insist her views.
“Si Gwen naman she went to see me the other week and I assured her that we are fair and that I see the wisdom in her view but I said the overwhelming notion among us in the government and the medical doctors simply do not agree with you,” Duterte said.
“I leave the fate of Governor Garcia sa DILG. There are some mechanics that we can put into action to compel obedience, not because we want to be mas marunong ,but remember, I said that all our decisions are based on what the medical people say. Period,” he added.