All public officials must take a stand on issues regarding the request and clamor of any particular sector/s and in this particular case “our vendors in the 3 major public markets of Bacolod City”.
Three (3) letters from the different vendors’ associations were received by the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) during our 66th Regular Session last October 07, 2020 requesting for clarification and guidelines regarding the scheduled Mandatory Surveillance Swab Testing and yet those letters were never acted upon by both the SP and the Executive other than an issuance of EXECUTIVE ORDER 66 received a day before the Mandatory Swab Test.
What is the Legal Authority of the City to impose a “Mandatory Swab Testing” and those vendors who refused will “Not be Allowed Entry” in these (3) major public markets to sell.
1.) Contrary to the claim of Atty. Joselito Bayatan citing the Bacolod City Ordinance “Granting the Emergency Authority to the City Mayor in the face of Covid-19 Pandemic”, one of the measures granted to the Mayor is to “Conduct massive RT-PCR (Swab) Tests in the City” – nowhere did the Ordinance say, “MANDATORY”.
2.) The Exercise of Police Power granted to the City by the Local Government Code such that of “Memorandums or Orders should be of General Application or None at all.” The Mandatory Test Order covers only the vendors in the (3) major markets owned by the City but not ALL the vendors in the area of these (3) major markets. It is selective and discriminatory. Law and Order must apply to all and not just a few.
3.) On Surveillance Testing, the Department of Health (DOH) Memorandum Circular 2020-0151 and reiterated by Department Circular No. 2020-0179 which were upheld by the Supreme Court (SC) and lauded by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in its official website press release dated September 17, 2020, provides, that there is “no need for the government to conduct mass testing” but rather prioritize sub-groups, (1) patients or healthcare workers with severe or critical symptoms and history of travel or exposure, and (2) patients or healthcare workers with mild symptoms, relevant history of travel or exposure, and considered vulnerable (e.g. 60 years old or older, has other illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, etc.)
“If you don’t fall under these 2 qualifications but want to be tested, YOU NEED TO BE ASSESSED BY A LICENSED HEALTH PROFESSIONAL WHO SHALL DETERMINE WHETHER YOU GET TESTED OR NOT”.
Taking into consideration all of the above, to my mind the City Government of Bacolod’s issuance of such an “Order to Conduct Mandatory Mass Surveillance Testing on Vendors in the Three (3) Major Public Markets…” is banking only on the fact that these three (3) major markets are owned by the City and that it can “IMPOSE ITS WILL” over these vendors as they deemed it necessary or face sanctions of “NO ENTRY” in these markets. It is for me an “inordinate misuse of public funds” and a form of Martial Law over these poor vendors.
Although I am in favor of the “massive and random “Swab Tests, it should be grounded on the following: 1.) that the government should provide the necessary financial and food assistance to the vendor and his family while he is under quarantine and 2.) the vendor should be treated immediately once he is found “positive” in a medical isolation facility.