Guevarra: Quarantine violators may face arrest

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Guevarra: Quarantine violators may face arrest
Members of the Manila Police District Sta. Cruz police station set up a check point along Blumentritt Street in Manila on Sunday night, March 15, 2020 to remind the public of the proper social distancing measure inside passenger jeepneys and the implementation of curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday night that violators of the “enhanced community quarantine” may face arrest, amid government’s implementation of stringent measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus disease.

Guevarra made the statement after President Rodrigo Duterte placed mainland Luzon under “enhanced community quarantine,” which, among other measures, suspends public transportation and implements strict home quarantine for every household.

Shortly after Duterte’s recorded public address was aired, Cabinet secretaries held a press conference at the Malacañang. Guevarra told reporters: “Violators of the enhanced community quarantine may be arrested and charged under Article 151 of the [Revised Penal Code] which punishes resistance and disobedience to a person in authority or the agents of such person.”

He also said police and other law enforcement agents may enforce arrest against violators of quarantines, “considering the gravity of the present situation,” under Republic Act 11332.

Republic Act 11332 is the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.”

It provides that the Secretary of Health may declare epidemics of national and/or international concerns, and the President “shall declare a State of Public Health Emergency and mobilize governmental and nongovernmental agencies to respond to the threat.”

Hours before the government implemented the “general community quarantine,” human rights lawyer Chel Diokno pointed out that “police cannot just arrest because of violation of health emergency measures.”

In a series of tweets, the human rights lawyer explained in a mix of English and Filipino: “The PNP cannot arrest and detain you for violating public health emergency measures. They can stop you and bar your entry, that is just right if needed, but they cannot arrest and detain you because entering Metro Manila is not a crime.”

Guevarra had also previously said that “law enforcement agents can physically prevent actual movements (entry into or exit from Metro Manila), unless covered by the exceptions or on highly justifiable grounds.”

But can they be arrested and detained? Only when there is an assault, slander or bribery, said Guevarra last Saturday.

Duterte’s proclamations

Duterte’s Proclamation 922, or the declaration of a State of Public Health Emergency throughout the Philippines do not contain a provision on violations of a quarantine order.

But Section 4 of the proclamation read: “All citizens, residents, tourists and establishment owners are urged to act within the bounds of the law and to comply with the lawful directives and advisories to be issued by appropriate government agencies to prevent further transmission of the COVID-19 and ensure the safety and well-being of all.”

Meanwhile, the following are listed as prohibited acts under RA 11332:

  • Non-operation of the disease surveillance and response systems
  • Non-cooperation of persons and entities that should report and/or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern
  • Non-cooperation of the person or entities identified as having the notifiable disease, or affected by the health event of public concern

If found guilty, one will be fined with not more than P50,000 or imprisonment of not more than six months.

“So these will come into play that only those with serious resistance or disobedience to our law enforcers. So I plead with everyone to just simply give your cooperation, this is something that is temporary,” Guevarra added.

Courts are open for legal questions over health emergency

Philippine courts are operating on shortened hours until April 14.

Courts across the country will only operate from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and night courts will be completely suspended during this period.

The Supreme Court however stressed that hearings may push through on urgent matters, such as but not limited to:

  • Petitions, motions and pleadings in relation to bail and habeas corpus
  • Promulgation of judgments of acquittals
  • Reliefs for those who may be arrested and detained during this period
  • Other related actions that may be filed in relation to measures imposed at the local or national level to address the declared health emergency

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