enate President Vicente Sotto III urged the public to cooperate with the measures being implemented by the executive branch.
Beremy Pintolo/ File
Senators caution LGUs: Don’t violate laws amid community quarantine
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - March 16, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines —Senators cautioned authorities and local government units (LGUs) in implementing their respective community quarantines, including curfews, to ensure they would not be violating the law, as they urged Filipinos to cooperate with measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III urged the public to cooperate with the measures being implemented by the executive branch.

 Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the committee on national defense and security, said as the community quarantine to address the COVID-19 threat starts, the Philippine National Police (PNP) should exercise caution in handling the situation. 

He said Republic Act 9271, the Quarantine Act of 2004 – replacing “a very old” Republic Act 123 of 1947 – is silent on the movements of persons in the streets, as it only covers domestic and international seaports and airports. 

“Hence, law enforcement authorities may not be legally equipped to conduct arrest unless local ordinances are available for its enforcement,” Lacson, a former PNP chief, said.

For its part, Congress may need to amend Republic Act 9271 to adopt to this new normal, “the COVID-19, and God knows what else, would come to hit us in the future,” the senator added. 

He expressed hope that the pandemic would be the last of its kind and that a cure will come soon. 

“Having said that, the people are enjoined to fully cooperate. After all, these are extraordinary times that call for extraordinary measures,” Lacson said. 

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III stressed that a local ordinance should be passed first before any curfew could be imposed in a concerned city or municipality. 

Pimentel said a strong public information campaign can convince people to stay indoors and avoid unnecessary gatherings. 

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian backed the planned curfew as this would reduce the places where people can congregate such as bars and clubs.  

Congregation is one source where the virus can spread, Gatchalian explained. 

“As for the abuses… abuses by persons in authority should be punished immediately. The PNP, AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), and LGUs should monitor and set strict guidelines for their people to follow. Those guidelines should be very clear also to the general population,” he said.

Sen. Francis Tolentino, a former municipal mayor and chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, said incursions on civil liberties such as the imposition of a curfew is necessary to protect the country, and Filipinos need to sacrifice. 

“However, quarantine procedures, including curfew hours, should strike a balance between protecting the health of many as against preserving the rights of the few. I support protecting the health of the majority but with strict guidelines to prevent unintended consequences such as risking or exposing curfew violators if herded together, for possible contamination as well,” Tolentino said. 

With 17 possible LGU ordinances being crafted for the curfew, he said the bigger challenge is to have a synchronized implementing mechanism to achieve a common mission and curtail unintended consequences. 

Sen. Grace Poe meanwhile warned the implementation of a curfew in the National Capital Region will have unforeseen outcomes on the economy, delivery of public services, and the general welfare of the people, especially among the poor. 

“How will the government cushion its impact on the livelihood of workers who will be temporarily laid off because of business inactivity? What assistance can the government offer to small businesses which will be forced to shut down operations or operate in reduced hours?” Poe asked.

 “As we seek cooperation from the people in making the curfew work we must also work double time to allay anxiety and make our citizens feel that the government is in control,” she said. 

She urged the government Price Council to make sure that basic food items and other supplies are readily available at fair value.  

The limit to purchases should be imposed not only on alcohol disinfectants, but also on essential items to avert hoarding and panic buying, while food and water must be steadily available, she said. 

The Department of Social Welfare and Development, in coordination with LGUs, should also be ready with relief packs, food and water for distribution to the poorest of the poor, Poe said.

PANFILO LACSON VICENTE SOTTO
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