Former Anakpawis party-list representative Ariel Casilao and six other volunteers of Sagip Kanayunan and Tulong Anakpawis relief operations were flagged down at a checkpoint in Norzagaray town on April 19 morning.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Handout
Court rejects 'non-cooperation' charge vs Bulacan relief volunteers
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - June 10, 2020 - 6:06pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 6:22 p.m.)— A Bulacan court rejected the complaint alleging “non-cooperation” during a public health emergency that theauthorities filed against activists arrested on their way to a relief operation in Norzagaray, Bulacan as it ruled that they were charged with the incorrect violation.

Their indictment on a separate inciting to sedition and usurpation of authority complaint stands, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

"Arraignment on June 24," Guevarra added.

A copy of the resolution on this separate case has yet to be made public as of this story’s posting.

Volunteers from Sagip Kanayunan and Tulong Anakpawis, including former lawmaker Ariel Casilao, were arrested and charged with violation of Republic Act 11332 or the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.”

They were charged, specifically, of “non-cooperation of persons...that should report and/or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern,” over “the act of the accused of staying outside their respective residences.”

Norzagaray Municipal Trial Court Judge Julie Rita Badillo dismissed the case and held that “the facts charged in the Information do not constitute an offense under Section 9(d) of RA 11332.”

Guevarra said the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Bulacan may still appeal the dismissal of the case.

'Law is on reporting disease to DOH'

Casilao and six other volunteers of Sagip Kanayunan and Tulong Anakpawis relief operations were flagged down at a checkpoint in Norzagaray town on April 19.

Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya claimed the food pass acquired by the volunteers was unauthorized but fishers' group Pamalakaya said that it had been issued by Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources national director Eduardo Gongona.

The court document however said that the charge sheet against the seven cited their failure to present a quarantine pass or permit to travel at a checkpoint.

“Examining the policy and objectives o RA 11332 vis-a-vis the facts alleged in the Information, the Court believes that travelling outside the residence without travel permit or quarantine pass does not qualify as violation” of the said provision, said Badillo.

The court also noted that the intent of the law—considering the bills it emanated from—shows that “non-cooperation” refer to persons or entities “that should report the public health events to the appropriate public health authority.”

“RA 11332 therefore makes obligatory the reporting of a condition... to the implementing agency (Department of Health),” the ruling read.

“Hence RA 11332 refers to mandatory reporting of health information about the notifiable diseases as well as cooperation to the response systems to health related events,” it added.

"While such act illustrates defiance to the open directive to observe the enhanced community quarantine, such infraction does not fall under the prohibited acts of RA 11332," the ruling further read.

Quarantine violation arrests

While Badillo’s ruling is not binding on other courts as judges may have a different appreciation of the facts presented to them, the Department of Justice earlier said that quarantine violators may be arrested under RA 11332.

On the second day of the Luzon-wide lockdown in March, Guevarra said complaints in violation of RA 11332 or Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code which punishes resistance and disobedience to a person in authority or the agents of such person may be filed against them.

READ: Guevarra: Quarantine violators may face arrest | Amid 'physical closure' of courts, Guevarra asserts on arrest for quarantine violators

The PNP reported that as of June 8, 193,779 were warned, fined, or arrested for violating the community quarantine, the Philippine News Agency reported.

At a Senate hearing on May 29, Police Gen. Archie Gamboa, Philippine National Police chief, said cops often charge violators with RA 11332 or the Revised Penal Code, Article 151 (disobedience to authorities).

It is unclear how many of these apprehensions were made under RA 11332.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE
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