Persons who will violate the terms of the Luzon quarantine due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) can be arrested even if they did not seriously resist persons of authority, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Tuesday.
"Under RA 11332, yes," DOJ Undersecretary and spokesman Markk Perete said when asked for a categorical answer on the possibility of arrest for people who may defy quarantine rules but do not seriously disobey authorities.
He was referring to the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, which penalizes "non-cooperation of persons or entities that should report and/or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern."
The law also prohibits the non-cooperation of persons who have been identified as having the notifiable disease, or those affected by the health event of public concern.
The penalty is one to six months of imprisonment or a fine of P20,000 to P50,000, or both, depending on the court, according to the law.
"That is how the law stands, and the reasoning behind it seems pretty straightforward: in times of a health event of a public concern, an unfounded insistence to act in a way that imperils our collective health can be criminally sanctioned," Perete said in a message to reporters.
"And if they seriously disobey or resist a person in authority, they may likewise be held liable under Article 151 of the RPC (Revised Penal Code)," he added.
Asked if the DOJ will really pursue charges in court over such incidents, the official said prosecutors are "duty bound" to file cases if they find probable cause in complaints.
"What needs emphasis here is that this is not a curtailment of one's right to mobility. Such an individual's rights yields to the safety of the community at large," Perete said.
Mass public transportation is suspended until midnight of April 13, one of the sweeping provisions in a newly-enforced "enhanced community quarantine" that President Rodrigo Duterte imposed over Luzon in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the public will only be allowed to leave their homes for essential travel such as buying basic necessities.
Commuters who still had to go to work, including frontline health workers, on Tuesday had difficulty going to their destinations as a result of the public transport suspension.
The police has warned that public transport vehicles that will be caught operating even despite the suspension would be impounded, but that arrests would only be made if the drivers show “blatant disrespect or disobedience to authorities such as speeding away when flagged down."
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday night may arrest violators of the enhanced quarantine's terms under "various laws" "considering the gravity of the situation."
Two days prior, before the quarantine was expanded, Guevarra said persons who will try to enter or exit Metro Manila will only be barred from doing so, and that warrantless arrests would only be made if law enforcement agents are assaulted, slandered, or bribed.
The Department of Health has recorded 187 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday afternoon. Twelve patients have died. Four have recovered. —LDF, GMA News