QC penalties for drinking in public ‘invalid’ since 2016
A lawyer has called out the Quezon City government for failing to inform the police that the court had already voided the penalties imposed under a local ban against drinking in public.
The penalty provision of Ordinance No. 85 was declared “invalid for being unconstitutional” by Judge Catherine Manodon of QC Regional Trial Court Branch 104 two years ago.
“Although declared invalid and unconstitutional for being ambiguous, vague and indefinite as a penalty, it appears that the QC government and the city council have not informed the Philippine National Police of the court ruling,” lawyer Federico Agcaoli said in an interview.
In a July 2016 ruling, Manodon sided with petitioner Jose Antonio Maestro who had argued that Section 22 of the 1989 ordinance was “ambiguous, vague and indefinite” in setting penalties for violators.
Left to court’s discretion
According to Section 22, the penalty for drinking in public is either a fine not more than P500 or a prison term left to the court’s discretion.
“Under the law, a penalty must be specific and cannot be left to the discretion of the court,” said Maestro’s petition. which named Mayor Herbert Bautista among the respondents.
The judge found the provision “incomplete as it did not specify the period for the imprisonment, hence cannot be carried out or applied without encroaching upon the domain of the legislature… Even with the best motives, the court can only interpret and apply the law… (and) have no right to encroach on the prerogatives of lawmakers.”
The city government filed a motion for reconsideration, which Manodon denied in February.
Agcaoili said he was able to scrutinize the ordinance when he defended Maestro after the latter was arrested and charged with two others for drinking in the street on Jan. 4, 2015. The complaint against Maestro was later dismissed.
Despite the court ruling, the Quezon City police have arrested more than 600 persons since June 13, citing the ordinance and in line with President Duterte’s order to rid the streets of so-called “tambay” or loiterers.
Reached for comment, Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte said her office was informed of the 2016 court decision only on July 10, when the city’s legal department met with representatives of the council, which is now considering amendments to Section 22.
Chief Supt. Joselito Esquivel, the city police chief, said he was aware that the provision had been voided for setting no limits on the jail time, but “the ordinance itself is still OK; for now we just issue violation tickets.”
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