This photo taken March 18 shows a law enforcement agent manning a checkpoint amid the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.
The STAR/Edd Gumban
Amid 'physical closure' of courts, Guevarra asserts on arrest for quarantine violators
Kristine Joy Patag ( - March 20, 2020 - 10:17pm

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine courts may be “physically closing” on March 23, amid the rising cases of COVID-19, but the Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra will not soften his stance on possible arrest of violators of the enhanced community quarantine.

“Our criminal laws are not suspended during times of emergency,” Guevarra told reporters in a message.

Earlier Friday, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta directed courts nationwide to be “physically closed” to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease.

Courts will still entertain messages, through calls or emails, but only when the judges and justices decide that the matter raised is urgent will the courts tackle it.

Guevarra was asked if he would change his stance on arresting violators of the enhanced community quarantine, which restricted movement across Luzon and where some municipalities and cities enforced curfews.

“Law enforcement, prosecution, and court adjudication structures and procedures will just have to make the necessary adjustments, no matter how difficult it may be,” he said.

“Otherwise we will have a breakdown of law and order,” Guevarra added.

The Justice chief earlier said that violators of the lockdown may be charged with resistance and disobedience to a person in authority or the agents of such person. A charge on violating Republic Act 11332 is the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act” may also be filed.

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

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers however pointed out that provisions of the said law is vague.

"It is our opinion that this crime [is] not sufficiently defined in the law. The penal provision is so vague that it is open to interpretation and may give way to abuse by law enforcement authorities. It is open to legal challenge," the NUPL said. 

They added that charges of resisting and disobeying enforces of the quarantine may be landed "only if you willfully disobeyed lawful orders of law enforcers." However, they were careful to mention that this still left the door open for demanding explanation and clarification. 

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 8, 2020 - 5:30pm

Photo shows members of the Philippine National Police deployed in Manila amid COVID-19 threat. The STAR/Edd Gumban

President Rodrigo Duterte on March 16, 2020 declares an enhanced community quarantine over all of mainland Luzon, an expansion of an earlier general community quarantine over the National Capital Region.

The entire National Capital Region—16 cities and a municipality—is under community quarantine from March 15 to April 14, which means the enforcement of social distancing measures like letting fewer people on public transportation, reduced store hours, and the possibiity of curfews.

According to a memorandum issued by the Palace on Saturday, March 14, the quarantine means that "movement of people shall be limited to accessing basic necessities and work; and uniformed personnel and quarantine officers shall be present at border points."

Travel restrictions in and out of the capital will also be implemented.

April 8, 2020 - 5:30pm

The Department of Foreign Affairs welcomes home nine Overseas Performance Artists (OPAs) who returned from Tokyo, Japan.

Based on the release, the contracts of the OPAs were pre-terminated due to the slowdown of the global economy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), through the Philippine Consulate General in Osaka and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office - Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (POLO-OWWA), respectively, coordinated with the local manning agency of the OPAs to facilitate their repatriation," the statement reads.

April 8, 2020 - 10:19am

The Philippine Arena in Bulacan will be ready to accept COVID-19 patients by next week, National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. says.

The repurposed facility will be equipped with three tents that can accommodate around 300 asymptomatic coronavirus patients or those only with mild or moderate symptoms.

The facility can later on be expanded to cater to up to 2,000 patients. It would be able to serve patients coming from Quezon City, Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela and Bulacan.

April 8, 2020 - 9:33am

The wing designated for coronavirus patients at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute has reached its full capacity.

The hospital said it can only accept kidney patients under investigation dependent on dialysis treatments. They will be admitted to tents at the emergency room - COVID Field until test results show they are negative.

"Patients with moderate to severe pneumonias shall be transferred to other hospitals designated as COVID-19 facility," the hospital said in a statement.

April 7, 2020 - 12:43pm

All circulars and orders of the Supreme Court related to COVID-19 will remain in effect until the end of the extended enhanced community quarantine.

SC spokesperson Brian Hosaka said the special session of the high court in Baguio City will also be canceled.

"We will be releasing the corresponding orders once they have been signed by the Chief Justice," Hosaka said.

April 7, 2020 - 9:54am

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles confirms that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) recommended the extension of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.

Nograles, also IATF spokesperson, said the task force formally recommended to the Office of the President the extension of the implementation of the ECQ in Luzon until April 30.

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