President Rodrigo Roa Duterte made a renewed appeal to local government units (LGUs) to accept returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stressing they could be charged if they refuse to take in the returning workers.
Everyone’s right to travel and to return home is guaranteed under the Constitution, President Duterte said.
“Now let me be very clear. Let me talk about legality para wala tayong — wala tayong sakit ng loob. Nobody but nobody can really stifle the right of a — whether he is travelling and working outside and coming in, going home. Nagkaroon lang itong temporary — an aberration in the movement of people because of the COVID,” the President said in a televised public address Monday night.
Only the national government can impose travel restrictions because it is the only one that can declare an emergency based on national interest, the President explained.
The power to declare an emergency solely lies at the hands of the national government and it is not shared with anybody, he stressed, adding the imposition of quarantine measures should dovetail national policy.
“Ngayon, may mga siyudad na ayaw nilang tanggapin. You know, I’m ordering you to accept them, open the gates of your territories and allow the people — and allow the Filipino to travel wherever they want,” the President told local chief executives.
“Do not impede it. Do not obstruct the movement of people because you run the risk of getting sued criminally. Because it is the national government who declared there is a national emergency involving a pandemic, an issue of health, that — that power cannot be shared by — by anybody else.”
And if the LGUs want to implement measures at the local level, they should ask the permission of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID), according to the President.
At the same time, President Duterte said it is cruel for the LGUs to shut the doors for the returning workers. It is ironic that while the government considers them modern day heroes, they face abandonment in times of distress.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano also made an assurance that the 24,000 OFWs who underwent real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test got negative results.
“Kung sakali lang po na may makakalusot na nawala ‘yung kanyang result at siya ay dumating sa LGU ng walang papeles, ang advice po natin sa LGU tanggapin ninyo at ilagay ninyo sa quarantine hanggang dumating ‘yung kanyang result,” he said.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) started to send home OFWs who were stranded in Metro Manila based on the order of the President.
Thousands more are expected to arrive in the country from different parts of the world. PND