What you need to know about curfews amid Luzon quarantine
EARLY PATROL. A barangay public safety officer patrols the streets of Kaligayahan, Novaliches, Quezon City on his motorcycle early Friday (March 20, 2020). Non-essential travel has been disallowed under the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus disease 2019.
PNA/Oliver Marquez

What you need to know about curfews amid Luzon quarantine

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - March 24, 2020 - 2:47pm

MANILA, Philippines — As the Philippine government continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, President Rodrigo Duterte enforced a Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, restricting movement of millions outside their homes.

Local government units complemented this with their own ordinance, implementing curfew in their area and imposing penalties for violators. Others also issued a quarantine pass, which will designate just one member of the household that may be allowed to go out and make “essential” trips such as buying groceries and medicines.

RELATED: What are quarantine passes and why are they handed out during Luzon-wide lockdown?

While some localities imposed nine-hour curfews, starting 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., others like Muntinlupa has a “24-hour curfew” in place.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, a member of the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, explained: “The total lockdown in Luzon is in effect a 24-hour curfew. No one leaves the house, unless covered by the exceptions/exemptions.”

Curfews are allowed

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said in a legal opinion that curfews may be imposed under “certain situations and conditions like the current pandemic, and it is legitimately and really necessary for public interest, public welfare and public health.”

Government bodies with police power, such as the Sangguniang Barangay, Municipal or City Council, Provincial Board, Congress and the president, may enact curfews.

But 24-hour curfews are unconstitutional

But the NUPL stressed that the imposition of curfews “cannot be arbitrary, excessive or disproportionate.”

As such, a round-the-clock curfew “with vague or no exceptions or exemptions...are open to serious legal challenge.”

READ: Muntinlupa residents under 24-hour curfew amid Luzon quarantine

Rights lawyer Chel Diokno also said that a 24-hour curfew violates the Constitution as it is “outright denial of the right to travel and freedom of movement.”

Curfew order of a presidential appointee also unconstitutional

Criminal Law professor Theodore Te, who is also former Supreme Court spokesperson, also said: “Unelected Presidential Assistants cannot issue an ‘advisory,’ then use the word ‘order,’ impose a 24-hour curfew, command [Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines], and then say the guidelines are for compliance until they are withdrawn.”

Te did not identify anyone in his tweet. Presidential Assistant to Visayas Michael Diño issued an “advisory” for local chief executives in Visayas on March 21. It, however, does not recommend but “orders” 24-hour curfew or home quarantine for senior citizens and students.

FROM THE FREEMAN: Healthcare professionals support 24-hour curfew

NUPL, for its part, also said a presidential assistant “has no legal authority to issue such directives to LGUs for strict implementation,” as it is a “highly excessive exercise of a power when there is none.”

“The implementation of curfews requires the prior passage of a provincial, city or municipal ordinance,” NUPL stressed.

Penalties are allowed

NUPL also said that penalties for violations of curfews may be imposed, but the lawyers’ group stressed that these must be “proportionate, specific and definite,” and “not arbitrary.”

A penalty should also “have a relation to the act or omission being penalized.”

Other localities impose a fine or risk facing imprisonment of up to a month.

But taking away a scholarship, punishing minors are not

Penalties to curfew violations should be “just and humane” and  “not amount to cruel, degrading or unusual; treatment or punishment,” NUPL said.

In Muntinlupa, curfew violators may have their scholarships revoked or their relief goods and other aids withheld.

“In this context, the ordinance issued by some local government units canceling for instance scholarship benefits are legally infirm,” NUPL added.

Brgy. San Isidro, Parañaque punish curfew violators by having them sit in an open space under the heat of the sun. The Facebook post of the barangay, which has since been deleted, read in Filipino: “Those caught for violating the curfew will be brought here.”

Diokno also pointed out that under the Comprehensive Juvenile Justice Act, “minors cannot be penalized for a curfew violation.”

“They should be brought to their homes or turn them over to their parents,” Diokno said in Filipino.

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