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LGUs, police to adjust policies again as Duterte orders arrests for improper mask use

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
LGUs, police to adjust policies again as Duterte orders arrests for improper mask use
This undated photo shows curfew violators in Manila's Sampaloc District.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government will confer with the Philippine National Police and local government units to adjust ordinances to President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to arrest those wearing face mask improperly.

DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said in an interview with ANC’s "Headstart" that they will sit with PNP leadership and LGUs "to determine the parameters of the presidential directive."

"We will have to reconcile this also with the various ordinances that were issued by different LGUs," he added.

In a recorded address aired on Wednesday night, Duterte ordered police to arrest those not wearing face masks properly in public and detain them for nine hours.

“My orders to the police are those who are not wearing their masks properly in order to protect the public—because if not, if you cannot defend the public—to arrest them and detain them, investigate why they are doing it. They have nine hours,” he said.

Under Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, authorities must deliver detained persons to judicial authorities, for filing of complaints, within 12 hours for crimes punishable by light penalties; 18 for crimes punishable by correctional penalties and 36 hours for offenses punishable by afflictive penalties.

Malaya explained that LGUs have different ordinances and sanctions on directives issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the policy-making body during the pandemic. 

LGUs imposed warnings or fines, and arrests are only allowed when there is resistance to authorities, added the DILG official.

But Malaya acknowledged that in implementing Duterte’s order, the DILG must also account for detention spaces.

“If we do make arrests, we would also need to prepare our detention cells because there may be a larger number of people detained than before,” he added.

In July 2020, the DILG had to seek help from the Supreme Court to order that newly-arrested persons be brought to police station holding cells to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Bureau of Jail Management and Penology jails.

Detention space and community service

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra was asked for comment on Duterte’s directive but he has yet to reply.

Guevarra in April said he recommended to local government units to impose community service on “quarantine violators” instead of imprisonment.

After a year of arrests for “non-cooperation” and disobedience raps, the DOJ chief said local ordinances would serve as a better legal basis on enforcing health protocols as “these are very direct to the point.”

"For statutes like mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases, there is a provision on non-cooperation, but you know it does not exactly fit the bill, it is not very exact to the actual violation," he said in English and Filipino.

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