Face mask arrest rules may be out this week
In this July 15, 2020 photo, members of the MPD Station 3 round up some 37 individuals, including two minors, for violating the citywide curfew and not wearing of face mask ordinances as they spend the night at a basketball court in Sta. Cruz, Manila.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman, file

Face mask arrest rules may be out this week

Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - May 11, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The guidelines on the arrest and detention of persons who are not wearing face masks might be finished within the week, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday said.

He noted that the DOJ has already finished its share of the work in formulating the guidelines as he expressed hope that this would become ready for implementation also this week.

“The DOJ is ready with its guidelines. We’ll just have to coordinate with the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) in the next couple of days,” Guevarra said.

President Duterte ordered the Philippine National Police last May 5 to apprehend those who are not wearing their face masks properly. He also tasked both the DOJ and the DILG to prepare the guidelines amid continuing complaints of people disregarding the COVID-19 health protocol.

“Fully aware of the complications that may arise from effecting arrests of persons not wearing face masks where required, such as the problem of congested jails or detention centers, the President has directed the DOJ and the DILG to come up with guidelines for the proper enforcement of his latest directive,” Guevarra earlier said.

To be covered by the guidelines are the manner, time and place of booking; detention and investigation to avoid overcrowding; and dealing with the increase in the number of cases for inquest filed before the offices of city prosecutors.

Guevarra had said the directive of the Chief Executive would take effect immediately even if the DOJ and DILG have not yet finished drafting the guidelines since “existing laws and ordinances define the prohibited acts and impose the corresponding penalties therefor, and the relevant rules of court govern the procedure.”

Meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto reminded policemen yesterday to heed the “no-jail” order of PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar for violators of health protocols.

He also backed Eleazar’s warning for the police not to maltreat, abuse or detain the violators, except for imposing the fines provided by local ordinances.

Any rush to arrest mandatory mask violators without setting up the holding and booking infrastructure would worsen jail congestion and the clogging of court dockets, Recto said.

He stressed that if the arrest is made to protect the health of the community and the individual, “then the purpose is defeated if violators are thrown into a jail where physical distancing is impossible.”

“Where’s the logic in catching someone for improperly wearing a mask when he would later catch the virus from his mask-less cellmates?” Recto said.

Eleazar said the persons arrested for not wearing face masks properly would be detained in the barangay or facilities offered by local government units instead of at police stations.

He also reiterated his order not to punish violators.

“We are also reminding our police that they are not allowed to punish, like that of forcing them to exercise. That’s not allowed,” he stressed.

Since the order was issued, the PNP has already warned 23,372 people, fined 9,144, subjected 1,223 to community service and 1,190 for inquest proceedings for various violations including non-wearing or improper wearing of face masks and shields, non-observance of social distancing and violations against the RA 11332.

The Department of Trade and Industry donated yesterday 50,000 face masks to the PNP so they could give these to detained individuals.

In a statement yesterday, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the DTI immediately committed to provide the washable face masks as part of the Libreng Mask Para sa Masa project, which aims to produce and distribute these to vulnerable sectors.

The project has, so far, given out 26,426,840 free masks to poor communities around the country.

“With the strict compliance of Filipinos, we can safely push for the reopening of low-risk, essential business activities while keeping communities safe from the threats of the pandemic. What we aim for, apart from the ongoing health initiatives, is to reverse the negative impact of the imposed lockdowns to our local micro, small and medium enterprises,” Lopez said.

Both the Muntinlupa City government and the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 have committed to strictly enforce the quarantine protocols, including the wearing of masks outdoors. – Paolo Romero, Neil Jayson Servallos, Louella Desiderio, Ghio Ong

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