Quarantine violations still punishable despite deleted provisions in ‘Bayanihan 2’ – Bato dela Rosa
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, a former chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), wants law enforcers to be guided that a deletion of penal provisions from the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act under the proposed “Bayanihan 2” is “not tantamount” to decriminalizing violations of the government’s quarantine policies.
Dela Rosa raised this matter during the Senate session on Monday, where Sen. Sonny Angara endorsed for plenary approval Senate Bill No. 1564, or the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, which seeks to authorize the President to “exercise necessary powers” to respond to the health crisis and to provide a “mechanism” to “accelerate the recovery and bolster the resiliency of the Philippine economy.”
The measure was contained under Committee Report No. 98, which was signed by at least 20 senators.
“The committee report proposes to delete the entire Section 6 of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act for the reason that the enumerated acts under the said section are already punishable in some other laws. To guide the implementers of the law and ensure compliance with the rules and regulations imposed by the national government to contain the spread of the COVID-19 disease, may we spread into the record the different laws that may be invoked by law enforcers against those who violate the provision of Section 6 (of the) Bayanihan to Heal as One law,” Dela Rosa said during his interpellation of the measure.
“Because we just want to guide our implementers, particularly the law enforcers, that the deletion of section 6 that enumerates the prohibited acts under the Bayanihan law is not tantamount to decriminalizing or condoning the acts committed by those who violate health protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.
Angara, in response, noted that it was Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon who proposed the removal of the said provision.
“This was the motion of the minority leader to remove this section because he was not particularly happy with the way it was being enforced and he expressed the reservation that we are exposing our citizens to double prosecution,” Angara said.
The senator also explained that under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which he said was a “special law,” the violator would not be able to use as a defense that he acted innocently or without criminal intent.
“Under special law, a violator cannot present the defense that he acted innocently or without criminal intent but because he was forced by circumstances… as in the example mentioned by the Senate Minority Leader: They did it. They broke quarantine because they had been suffering, looking for food,” Angara added, speaking partly in Filipino.
“And under the special law, they would not be able to avail of the defense of lack of criminal intent because that’s available under prosecutions under the revised penal code but not under a special law,” he added.
Angara also pointed to some of the acts punishable under the Bayanihan law than can be penalized under already existing laws or orders.
“I agree with you. We need to guide our law enforcers and that we need to emphasize that it does not mean that these acts are no longer punishable. So, for example, these LGU [local government unit] officials disobeying national government policies or directives in imposing quarantines. In the absence of a Bayanihan 1, there is no penal law. But there is an administration order which provides for the President’s authority to impose disciplinary action against erring LGU officials and I presume this would be exercised through the DILG [Department of the Interior and Local Government] and the PNP,” the senator said.
Among the acts prohibited under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act are spreading false information about COVID-19, hoarding, profiteering, manipulation of prices, and product deceptions.
For violations like profiteering or manipulation of prices, Angara noted that these already had penalties prescribed under the Price Act.
“We already have existing laws but I appreciate your [Dela Rosa’s] effort because it might be misconstrued that the absence of a penal provision — and it’s very good that we put into the record — that [it] does not mean because there is no Section 6, that these acts are no longer punishable under our existing laws,” Angara said.
Dela Rosa, meanwhile, clarified that he was not opposing the removal of the said provision but just wanted law enforcers to be “guided accordingly.”
“I just would like to put on record that I have no opposition to this deletion.In fact, when you presented it during the committee hearing…I really agreed to his (Drilon) proposal. For m=e, I just want to have our law enforcers to be guided accordingly,” he said.
The police, he said, might misinterpret the proposed law.
“Police officers might say: They did not include the prohibited acts. So we won’t arrest those who refuse to wear a face mask, who refuse to maintain social distancing,” he said. “Our problem might increase then.”
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.