MANILA, Philippines — Mayors who cannot implement measures against COVID-19 should "move aside" and let other officials do the job, President Rodrigo Duterte said, as he vowed to probe barangay officials whose areas have recorded spikes in infections.
Duterte said local officials should be "zealous" with their job, noting that they have influence over their constituents. Mayors, the president added, should be "pushed hard" because it is their obligation to protect public health.
"Make it an obligation for them to really strictly follow also whatever direction that we take in this fight against COVID," the president told Interior Secretary Eduardo Año during a meeting last Saturday in Malacañang.
"There has to be…a unanimity…in the modality. They should not implement their own mechanisms and they should not be indolent. So it behooves upon the Secretary of Health to also to move them to action," he added.
Duterte did not mention any names but the cities of Pasig and Valenzuela have allowed people on bicycles to not wear face shields while riding despite a directive from the coronavirus task force requiring face masks and face shields when outside the home. Cyclists are expected to put the face shields back on when not riding.
Local governments in Cebu and in Batangas were also put on the spot after presidential spokesperson Harry Roque and Sen. Manny Pacquiao attended events where there were crowds despite health protocol requiring physical distancing.
Both have been cleared of accountability, with police saying they were not responsible for the violations at the events they attended.
Duterte said vice mayors can take charge of enforcing pandemic-related measures if the mayor cannot do it.
"If they are not at par — in parity with the rest of the nation, then let's just replace them. In the meantime, we do not remove them from office, just move aside and maybe the vice mayor can do it. Let's do that. That's my suggestion to Secretary Año," the president said.
"If they are not doing the very things that are important…in this fight, others they take it as just an ordinary thing. They do not really maybe they have not realized the seriousness, then we can always move them," he added.
Duterte said must also push the barangay captains hard to ensure that precautionary measures are observed.
"For barangay captains who do not perform their duties…the surveillance in Manila would just notice that there is a spike in your barangay, then we will investigate why there is a spike. So if…compared to the others yours is in a worse situation, tell me why is it like that," the president said.
"I said it behooves upon everybody who is with government to contribute… Surveillance is really important. And well, if there’s a lot of people who are sick then maybe the government, the national government would also contribute something to control the pandemic in your place," he added.
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