âGovernment should uphold law on quarantine breachesâ
As of May 1, the number of violators totaled 41,000.
Miguel de Guzman, file

‘Government should uphold law on quarantine breaches’

Louella Desiderio (The Philippine Star) - June 1, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Eight business groups are calling on government leaders to uphold the rule of law during the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic as some public officials violate quarantine rules without facing punishment while thousands have been arrested for committing violations. 

“As the country rides this tide of uncertainty, we trust that our leaders at the national and local levels, will demonstrate beyond doubt, the highest standards in observing and enforcing the rule of law, and serve as role models in discipline and moral ascendancy,” read their joint statement yesterday.

The statement was issued by the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Institute for Solidarity in Asia Inc., Institute of Corporate Directors, Judicial Reform Initiative, Makati Business Club, and Management Association of the Philippines.

“We are therefore greatly disappointed – even appalled and dismayed – about news reports of public officials violating with impunity the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) and DOH (Department of Health) protocols intended to protect public health,” they said. 

The groups noted that when the government imposed the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila in March, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas declared: “We will arrest those who will not follow the guidelines.”

Last month, Sinas drew flak after photos posted online showed he had a large gathering for his birthday even when the ECQ was in place. While the PNP filed charges against him and several others for violation of protocols under the ECQ rules, Sinas remains head of NCRPO. 

The business groups said the quarantine rules have affected the livelihood and freedom of movement of millions and that the impact has been greater on those near or below the poverty line even with the government-provided financial support.

“Additionally, the seeming confusion and different interpretations of rules led to numerous quarantine violations,” they also said.

The groups noted that from March 17 to April 17, almost 30,000 violators had been arrested; 6,616 underwent inquest, while 23,016 cases were for filing.

As of May 1, the number of violators totaled 41,000. 

Many of those arrested have suffered detention, costs, humiliation, inconveniences, and even jail time.

Bail, however, could not be processed with limited bank branches open, and courts and government offices closed. 

The groups said all these happened even as the Supreme Court recently issued administrative circulars reducing bail and allowing recognizance for the release of the accused. 

“The compounding economic hardships and unfamiliarity with new rules resulted in many people languishing in detention centers for many days, thus risking exposure to the virus in overcrowded facilities,” they pointed out.

“Upholding the law and ensuring faith in our justice system stand as the bedrock of our democracy, and will enable the economy to survive and recover from these most trying times. The sacrifice of our people deserves nothing less,” the groups stressed.

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