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DILG seeks clarification on arrest of quarantine violators
Police accost a woman who was sweeping the sidewalk outside her home without wearing a mask in Barangay Talipapa, Quezon City yesterday.
Michael Varcas

DILG seeks clarification on arrest of quarantine violators

Romina Cabrera (The Philippine Star) - July 23, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is seeking clarification from Malacañang on President Duterte’s directive to arrest health protocol violators amid the congestion in jail facilities nationwide.

DILG spokesman Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said that they would need to clarify the directive with the Palace, after Duterte said he does not have any qualms about arresting individuals who flout quarantine measures meant to address the coronavirus pandemic.

“We need to clarify from Malacañang… does this mean, will we jail them. Because we have a problem with our detention facilities,” he said in an interview on One News’ The Chiefs.

The President directed the DILG to ensure that police and local officials will enforce quarantine protocols, including wearing of face masks in public and practicing physical distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Malaya said the difference between arrest and apprehension needs to be made clear, the latter only having sanctions or fines instead of detention.

The Philippine Nationa Police (PNP)  has accosted tens of thousands of individuals over alleged quarantine violations since the outbreak of the pandemic in March, most of whom were warned or fined.

The DILG is talking with local executives to harmonize local ordinances on quarantine violations, amid the varying sanctions imposed by different local government units.

Malaya said they are eyeing community service for violators instead of bringing them to cramped detention cells that could possibly further expose them to the coronavirus.

The DILG official noted that they recently received a directive from the Supreme Court granting its request not to issue commitment orders for detainees to be transferred to the congested Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

This means that inmates would have to stay longer in detention facilities of the PNP at the ground or unit level.

While the PNP has said that it still has enough space for detainees, Malaya said these detention cells will easily become congested if arrests continue.

Quarantine violators could face 10 to 30 days in jail under the proposed local legislation being pushed by the DILG.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said that following the meeting with local executives nationwide, they have agreed to pass ordinances that comply with uniform standards set by the department.

“Out of the result of the dialogue with the local chief executives, there will be uniform implementation of the health standard protocols. Number of days in prison for not wearing masks, we suggest 10 to 30 days. Physical distancing, also 10-30 days imprisonment,” he said at a pre-SONA briefing.

As for monetary sanctions, the DILG chief said that they are eyeing the imposition of fines ranging from P1,000 to P5,000.

Currently, each LGU has its own ordinances that state the penalty for quarantine violations, which the DILG said has often led to confusion for the public as well as law enforcers.

Once the uniform standard is passed, Año said they hope to implement stricter enforcement of quarantine protocols throughout the country.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday denied that the poor are the target of the quarantine restrictions, saying this is just a matter of perception.

During yesterday’s pre-SONA forum, Guevarra said that while many of those apprehended for violating quarantine restrictions during this time of pandemic may belong to the lower income group, there is no unfair application of the law.

It just so happened that some of them were out in the streets when they were caught violating quarantine protocols.

Worsen impact

Rights defenders yesterday raised alarm that jailing quarantine violators and shaming individuals infected with COVID-19 “would only worsen the impact of the pandemic even further” as the group hit Duterte’s orders for the PNP to arrest people who violate health protocols.

Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay warned that the continued use of militarist and punitive policing tactics through warrantless arrests and the suggestions of DILG officials for police house-to-house searches would only further stigmatize patients.

From March 17 to July 19, the PNP has arrested thousands of individuals for quarantine violations as 3,059 remain in jail, where the COVID-19 pandemic has already infected hundreds.

Meanwhile, Sen. Leila de Lima slammed the Duterte administration for prioritizing measures that curtail people’s rights and freedoms, terrorize the populace and tighten their grip on power instead of addressing the needs of Filipinos, especially during this time of pandemic.

In her message read by Jean Enriquez during an online alternative State of the Nation Address, De Lima lamented how the administration disregards Filipinos’ needs to propel their political agendas to greater heights. – Rhodina Villanueva, Evelyn Macairan, Emmanuel Tupas, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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