President Rodrigo Duterte addresses the nation early Friday, March 20, 2020.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday warned local governments to strictly follow quarantine rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease, or face charges.

In a recorded message aired past midnight on Friday, Duterte told mayors not to “overdo” things and ordered the justice and interior departments to monitor compliance.

“I was a mayor myself, in case you have forgotten. But this is an emergency of national proportions, and therefore it is the national government that should call the shots,” Duterte said.

For days, social media users have taken note of the crisis responses of mayors in Metro Manila such as Vico Sotto in Pasig, Isko Moreno in Manila, Rex Gatchalian in Valenzuela and Imelda Aguilar in Las Piñas.

While Sotto has earned widespread praise for his handling of the Covid-19 response, his request to exempt tricycles from the public transport ban was rebuffed by the Palace.

Duterte said mayors must follow the directives of the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases as “There is only one republic here, the Republic of the Philippines. And therefore, you should abide by the directives of the national government.”

“Let that be clear to everyone. So when the IATF says: ‘Do not restrict the flow of cargo of whatever type,’ then no LGU (local government unit) should say that they only follow or allow food or essential goods to come in. You are setting already your standards, and making this quarantine more difficult for all,” he said.

“The only reason why you can impose these quarantine restrictions and impose it on everyone passing [through] your areas, is because the national government is allowing you to do so. But if you go beyond the standards that we have set, you are abusing your authority, and you know that it can lead to – administrative cases or even worse, unless you stop what you are doing and [cooperate] fully. Criminal cases cannot be far behind,” he added.

Duterte said the country was already in lockdown mode.

“We are not alone. But let our country lead the way in imposing a lockdown [that] is strict enough to effectively kill Covid-19, liberal enough so that our people will not die of hunger, and orderly enough, so that our country will not be driven towards chaos during this difficult time.”

On Friday morning, Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said the president issued the message following reports that some local chief executives have “enforced their own measures in contravention to the specified standards established by the IATF for strict enforcement.”

“The National Government will not countenance such deviation and disobedience. Errant local officials will face administrative sanctions and criminal prosecution,” said Panelo, also the chief presidential legal counsel.

Panelo also warned against the “sudden surge of fake and alarming news of alleged crime incidents or planned crimes to be committed.”

“They create panic, confusion and fear among our people. We denounce the proliferation of such false narratives. We ask the citizenry to be discerning on what they read on social media and not to readily believe them,” he said. (PressONE.ph)