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Drilon to 'big bros, sis' assigned to oversee COVID-19 response: Respect local autonomy

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Friday reminded Cabinet members to be careful not to overstep local autonomy after they were designated as "big brothers and sisters" of local governments in Metro Manila and nearby provinces for COVID-19 response.

In a statement, Drilon pointed out that the term "Big Brother," coined by the author of the fiction novel "1984," refers to a supreme authority in a totalitarian society.

The Senate leader also underscored that Duterte is allowed by the Constitution to exercise "general supervision," not to control local government units.

"We cannot take away some powers or freedom in the name of war against COVID-19. The LGUs should be allowed to perform its functions with full autonomy," Drilon said.

"What we want to prevent here is overstepping of authority. There is a thin line that separates supervision and control. It is always a subject of overreach by the national government," he added.

Drilon said some LGUs in the capital region, such as Pasig and Marikina, have proven that they can respond efficiently to the pandemic even without a "big brother."

"It might only slow the decision-making process," he added.

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases on Wednesday tasked Cabinet officials to “provide stronger support” to areas where there is widespread community transmission

Decision made on a whim?

Another member of the minority bloc, Senator Risa Hontiveros said the government should stop making these kinds of decisions on a whim.

"Kung gustong mag-coordinate at sumuporta ang national government sa kanila, dapat step one talaga ay konsultasyon kung makakatulong ang ganitong pag-assign ng parang big brother, big sister... At kung iwe-welcome nila, sino ang pinakatingin nila makakapartner nila positively and effectively," she said in a virtual interview.

"Minsan 'yung solusyon ay hindi sa ganyang pag-rigodon lang, pagbabagu-bago ng casting ng mga aktor. It really has to start doon sa ano talaga ang plano," she added.

Moreover, Hontiveros said the government should stop using the COVID-19 pandemic as a "cover" to trample on the rights of the Filipino people.

Senator Nancy Binay said the plan to designate Cabinet members as supervisors of LGU's pandemic response was not thought through.

"Planong di masyado napag-isipan. May kakayahan o kaya ba ng mga Cabinet Sec gampanan ang dagdag na trabaho?" she posted on Twitter.

On the other hand, national action plan against COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the "big brothers and big sisters" will only guide the mayors.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the move should not be taken as a message that local leaders are not doing well in their pandemic response.

“Nag-assign lang po ng mga miyembro ng Gabinete kada siyudad [dahil] unang-una doon sila nakatira,” he said.

"Hindi po 'yan mensahe na may problema ang mga LGUs. Ito po ay mensahe na kung ano pa ang kinakailangan ng mga lokal na pamahalaan, narito po ang national government, narito po ang national IATF para tumulong."—AOL, GMA News