BARMM, Cotabato City clash on ECQ guidelines

ECQ enforcers check cars in Cotabato City on Friday, 17 April 2020. Photo courtesy of MAJEED ANDONG

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 17 April) – The city government and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) which holds office here are at odds over their conflicting interpretations of the implementing guidelines of the enhanced community quarantine.

In a post on its Facebook page, BARMM described as “unreasonable” the apprehensions of its employees at roadblocks and checkpoints by city officials and police personnel.

It cited the April 13 apprehensions where its employees were allegedly threatened and insulted even if they were using vehicles bearing stickers from the Bangsamoro Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19.

“We take such acts as unreasonable, even bordering on the illegal. In the guise of an enhanced community quarantine, there is an insidious move to restrict the movement of the workers of the Bangsamoro Government, especially those in the frontline offering health assistance, welfare aid and relief supplies,” the statement said.

BARMM stressed that national guidelines, and even the ones issued by the city government, allow for the unhampered movement of government personnel.

It cited that the March 16 memo of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea states that “work from home arrangement shall be implemented in the Executive Branch, except the PNP, AFP, PCG, and health and emergency frontline services, border control and other critical services, which shall ensure a skeletal work force.”

It said those arrested on April 13 were part of the designated skeletal force and personnel of the Emergency Operations Center of the Bangsamoro IATF.

It added the BARMM strictly adheres to guidelines and issuances of the National IATF on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The updated list of Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APOR) released by the Joint Task Force CV Shield on April 11, included those involved in basic services, including medical services, emergency responders, among others. A basic ID is enough for those who have no IATF IDs.

BARMM urged the city government and the city police office to honor the IDs of all APOR working for it.

If these “objectionable acts” are committed again, they will take legal actions against “any erring individual, be they officials or not,” the statement said.

But Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi said “the issuance of ID’s and stickers is abused, we have videos and records to prove.”

Sayadi had led the apprehensions of several quarantine pass violators due to the uncontrolled increase of vehicles roaming around the city recently despite the lockdown.

She pointed out that a quarantine pass cannot serve as working pass because it can only be used in going out to buy essential needs and medicines.

“Why we intend to require work pass to both public and private sectors? It was because we found out that employees who are not even frontliners are using government ID or certificate of employment just to bend the rules on ECQ. Who are these front liners? Who are these skeletal staff? Is a staff of a library considered a front liner?” Sayadi said.

The mayor said some of those apprehended had children and senior citizens aboard vehicles with stickers issued by the IATF.

“They should review their guidelines, huwag sila magalit (they should not get angry) if I am implementing our guidelines because even DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) recognizes the rights of LGU’s to formulate their own guidelines provided it is not contrary to the national rules, I am just putting everything in order,” she added.

Sayadi was referring to the DILG advisory issued on April 11.

The city government required residents working in private and government entities to get a work pass.

But BARMM spokesperson Naguib Sinarimbo said there is no need for BARMM frontliners to secure a work pass from city hall based on the same DILG advisory cited by Sayadi.

He said they only need an identification or certification from their offices not the city hall.

“If anybody abuses his power and prevent you from reporting to the office, tell me so we can file a case,” he said in Filipino.

Some residents have expressed concern over the misunderstanding between the city government and BARMM.

Suharto Ambolodto, a BARMM minister said the two parties should settle their differences for the common good.

In an open letter, Khomenie Sergio Bayam also urged both parties to talk, saying the conflict has affected those who are tasked to deliver the assistance from the national government.

“Please let’s have a common direction in fighting this pandemic problem,” he said.

Cotabato City voted for inclusion in the BARMM during the plebiscite last year. But it has yet to be turned over to the regional government.

Several petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the Bangsamoro Law that created the regional government and the results of the plebiscite. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)