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DOJ: Giving out ivermectin 'on its face' a violation, but arrests up to enforcers
This file photo shows Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
File photo

DOJ: Giving out ivermectin 'on its face' a violation, but arrests up to enforcers

(Philstar.com) - April 29, 2021 - 3:36pm

MANILA, Philippines — Distribution of ivermectin against COVID-19 is "on its face" a violation of the Food and Drug Administration law, said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra but deferred on saying whether this could lead to warrantless arrests.

“In the case of ivermectin, it’s not registered, particularly as a drug against COVID-19 and going by the FDA law, on its face, it would appear that the distribution of ivermectin as a possible treatment for COVID-19 apparently violates the FDA law,” Guevarra said in an interview with ANC’s Headstart on Thursday.

The FDA law prohibits and punishes distribution and promotion of unregistered medical products in the country. Local regulators, under orders of President Rodrigo Duterte are studying ivermectin.

The Department of Health also stressed that only hospitals given special permits to use ivermectin can give ivermectin to COVID-19 patients. So far, five hospitals have been given compassionate special permits, which allow doctors of hospitals to use unregistered medical products for limited off-label use.

But despite these, Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta (Sagip party-list) and Rep. Michael Defensor (Anakalusugan party-list) on Thursday morning led the distribution of ivermectin at a covered court in Quezon City.

The two lawmakers are assisted by medical professionals from the Concerned Doctors and Citizen of the Philippines — a group pushing for the use of the anti-parasitic drug — assist them.

Arrests? Unclear

But can law enforcers arrest them without a warrant, for being caught in the act of committing a supposed crime?

Guevarra, in a separate message to reporters, deferred answering the question. “As I said, the legal basis for the two exceptional situations is not clear, so I will defer my answer,” he said.

The DOJ chief noted that the FDA, which he called is “the biggest expert on these matters,” listed two exceptions for the use of ivermectin: Under compassionate special permits (CSPs) and from register pharmacies compounding it upon the prescription of a doctor.

 “I wouldn’t really blame Reps. Defensor and Marcoleta if they would proceed but as I said, this is subject to a further determination if there is legal basis for the exemption. So I leave it to them,” he added.

If a complaint is filed against the two lawmakers, Guevarra said they may raise the FDA exemptions as defense. "But personally, I’m not too sure whether these two exemptions cited by the FDA Director General have a sound legal bases so that is something for further study."

He added: "Our prosecutors will make a ruling when the issue is actually before them. For now, call yan ng law enforcement agents."

DOJ and warrantless arrests

The Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that a warrantless arrest may only be done if the person has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense; if a crime has just been committed; or if the person is an escaped prisoner.

In 2019, Guevarra warned officers of Kapa Community Ministry International Inc. soliciting from members may be arrested as they are committing a “continuing crime.”

In the same year, DOJ prosecutors upheld the warrantless arrest of web administrator Rodel Jayme in a charge of inciting to sedition, citing the principle of “hot pursuit.”

Warrantless arrests were also done on quarantine violators since March 2020, although Guevarra has since said he recommends community service instead of jail time for those caught violating protocols. — Kristine Joy Patag with reports from Xave Gregorio, Gaea Katreena Cabico

IVERMECTIN MENARDO GUEVARRA
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