No arrests during community quarantine â DOJ
DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) could only physically stop people from coming in and out of Metro Manila, unless one is covered by the exceptions or on highly justifiable grounds.
The STAR/Edd Gumban/File
No arrests during community quarantine — DOJ
Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - March 15, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — There will be no arrests during the implementation of the community quarantine and Metro Manila is not in a state of martial law.  

As the month-long community quarantine starts today, the Department of Justice (DOJ) gave the assurance that no one would be arrested for simply entering or exiting Metro Manila.

DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) could only physically stop people from coming in and out of Metro Manila, unless one is covered by the exceptions or on highly justifiable grounds.    

Guevarra issued the statement after human rights lawyer Chel Diokno said the PNP could not easily arrest anyone who would violate the health emergency measure implemented by the government. 

National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas on Friday warned uncooperative or unruly people of possible arrest and prosecution should they defy the community quarantine guidelines. 

Guevarra, however, said that PNP and AFP personnel could implement a warrantless arrest only if someone would attack them physically or disrespect them while implementing the community quarantine.    

“If the person assaults the law enforcement agents, or slanders him, or bribes him, then that’s a cause for a warrantless arrest,” Guevarra said. 

With the presence of uniformed personnel in the metropolis, Guevarra assured the public that the region is not under a state of martial law, but is only at war against COVID-19.  

“We are not in a state of martial law. We are fighting a common but relatively unknown enemy, a dangerous and lethal virus known as COVID-19. The PNP, assisted by the AFP, will be on streets not to sow fear, but to protect us,” he said. 

“So let us please cooperate and help each other until public health emergency is over. This is a phenomenon that is happening not only in our country, but also elsewhere around the world. By standing united and fighting together, we shall beat this enemy,” he added.   

In another development, Guevarra said no arrest or detention of individuals would be made amid plans to impose a curfew in Metro Manila.

Guevarra said that a curfew can only be imposed through a city ordinance. 

“It will depend only with the local ordinance of the city concerned, if there is no ordinance, no arrest (as in detention) can be made,” Guevarra said, reacting to reports that a metro-wide curfew will be imposed from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. during the community quarantine. 

With community quarantine imposed over Metro Manila, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has urged the government to provide financial and other forms of assistance to laborers and other vulnerable sectors that would be affected by the measures against COVID-19.

CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said the restricted movement that would be imposed in the metropolis would adversely affect informal sectors that rely on daily sales or wages to be able to meet their basic needs.

“Those living in depressed areas, as well as laborers whose jobs are not flexible for work-from-home arrangement, are also at high risk in terms of contracting the virus as well as in bearing the brunt of its economic impact,” she said.

“To cushion them from the negative impacts, social safety nets and cash assistance must be provided alongside efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus,” she added.

De Guia said the CHR recognizes that the imposition of the community quarantine is a necessary step to contain the spread of the disease.

The CHR called for clear-cut guidelines that take into consideration all possible scenarios to ensure proper enforcement and prevent undue public panic during the month-long quarantine.

“Penalties for any breach in the community quarantine protocols, should there be any, should also be within the bounds of law. This is the best way to ensure public cooperation and proper and strict implementation, while respecting the rights and dignity of all concerned and affected,” said de Guia.– With Janvic Mateo, Jaime Laude

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