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DOJ: 'Mandatory Reporting' may still apply but ordinances better vs 'quarantine violators'
Police and barangay officers man the entry and exit points of Barangay 297 in Manila at Monday midnight, March 22, 2021 after it was placed under a four-day lockdown along with 12 other barangays.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

DOJ: 'Mandatory Reporting' may still apply but ordinances better vs 'quarantine violators'

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - March 23, 2021 - 1:46pm

MANILA, Philippines — Can a law used to arrest thousands during last year's lockdown but not applied to a sitting senator still be used against "quarantine violators" in this new round of restrictions?

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said local ordinances would be the more relevant legal framework for law enforcement to use, but he stopped short of excluding the non-cooperation provision in Republic Act 11332 as potential complaints against "quarantine violators," depending on the circumstances.

“The more relevant legal and penal framework is the ordinances enacted by the LGUs to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus in their respective localities,” he told Philstar.com.

“It is the law enforcement agents [and] police who determine what specific charges should be filed, depending on the factual circumstance of each,” Guevarra added.

Pressed further, the justice secretary said that "it is much more straightforward to charge a quarantine violator with an offense under a local ordinance than under a statute of general [or] national application." He stressed, though, that a national law like RA 11332 "may also be applicable, depending on the factual circumstance." 

'NCR Plus' bubble

President Rodrigo Duterte over the weekend put Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan under General Community Quarantine, but with additional protocols to arrest the spread of the coronavirus.

The Inter-Agency Task Force has particularly put to task local government units in implementing the “bubble area,” which include their constituents’ adherence to public health standards.

Only essential travel into and out of the Subject Area, another name for the bubble, is allowed and curfews are again in effect. Mass gatherings are prohibited although weddings, baptisms and funeral services will be allowed but capped at 10 people.

Checkpoints manned by police in field gear have also made a return.

What is RA 1132?

When the community quarantine measures were first announced in March 2020, the government stressed that violators may face criminal and administrative raps. Among the laws that DOJ chief Guevarra mentioned are disobedience to authorities under Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code and, “considering the gravity of the present situation,” for violating Republic Act 11332.

Republic Act 11332 is the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.”

Police data showed that from March 17 to Nov. 14, 2020, 538,577 people "accosted" for quarantine violations, such as disobedience and curfew violations. Of these, 185,471 were given a warning and 218,808 were fined. There have also been 134,298 quarantine violators haled to court. 

SPECIAL REPORTS: Beyond arrest, raps: 'Quarantine violators' face trauma, COVID-19 risk too | Driven by hunger, urban poor go out for rumored relief drive but are haled into court instead

Among those arrested were relief workers in Marikina and volunteers in Norzagaray, Bulacan, Pride protesters in Manila and jeepney drivers protesting on Labor Day, as well as anti-terrorism law petitioners in Cebu and urban poor residents in Quezon City.

At least one political figure was sued, but Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III was later cleared of quarantine breach by no less than the National Prosecution Service, which also narrowed the scope of the law that police had often used against people who were not senators of the Republic.

The NPS, in resolving the complaint against Pimentel, held that the reporting requirement under the said law is only for public health authorities. It added that the “non-cooperation” complaint against the senator, saying he left the hospital after learning he was infected with the coronavirus.

The NPS decision on the complaint against Pimentel is not binding on other prosecutors and does not apply to other similar complaints. — with reports from Franco Luna

COMMUNITY QUARANTINE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE MENARDO GUEVARRA NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
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