DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu. (File photo courtesy of National Task Force Against Covid-19)

MANILA – All actions to be taken by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu in leading the fight against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in Cebu City will be “tantamount” to the acts of President Rodrigo Duterte, Malacañang said on Wednesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Cimatu, whom the President assigned to oversee the Covid-19 situation in Cebu City, is free to exercise “all powers” to slow down the spread of the virus as cases in the city exceeded 4,000.

Cimatu would have to notify the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) about the specific actions to be taken.

“The mandate really is to do everything that can be done to avoid a spike in cases in Cebu City and to manage the number of new cases being reported from the City,” he said in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel’s Headstart.

More than just giving recommendations, Roque said Cimatu would also have to give the IATF-EID regular updates.

“He will go there, he will find out what the situation on the ground is, he will make not just recommendations but will implement what he thinks should be done in a period of one week, and all he has to do is keep the IATF posted on the steps being taken,” he added.

Roque said the President could also issue an executive order to allow Cimatu to freely exercise those powers.

“All the actions of Gen. Cimatu are tantamount to acts of the President. And if need be, the President will issue executive orders to give legal validity to the actions being taken by Gen. Cimatu,” he said.

Cimatu can exercise these powers because Roque said “he has been the beneficiary of delegated authority from the President.”

“We all know that although we have equality of power between equal branches of government, the President, because of procedural powers, is, in reality, and in theory, the most powerful. So he (Cimatu) gets to exercise all the extraordinary powers of the Office of the President in dealing with the pandemic in Cebu City,” he added.

Among these powers, Roque said, is allowing Cimatu to seek help from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in enforcing the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Cebu City.

He, however, assured that seeking help from the military should not be compared to martial law.

“We’ve normally done this, resorted to asking the Armed Forces to perform civilian duties. So this is not martial law. This has been decided upon by the Supreme Court. And this is as far as enforcing the ECQ in Cebu is concerned,” Roque said.

He acknowledged that the police are normally assigned to enforce the ECQ but noted if the police are not enough, then the military can enter the picture.

Cimatu, who is currently in Cebu City, will be “going down to the barangays to find out the totality of the problem” in implementing quarantine protocols.

He, however, dismissed the possibility of sending police or military personnel down to the villages to arrest quarantine protocol violators.

Data from the Cebu City Health Department as of Tuesday showed the locality has a total of 4,479 Covid-19 infections with 2,213 active cases, 2,177 recoveries, and 89 deaths. (ia/PNA)