Know your legal rights under the ECQ

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The San Roque 21 after being arrested by the police on April 1. (Photo by Mariel Guerrero / Pinoy Weekly)

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – While the Philippine National Police (PNP) have said that the “violators” of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) will be arrested without warning, the National Union of People’s Advocates (NUPL) has issued a Q&A on the Basic rights of citizens while the country is fighting the 2019 coronavirus disease pandemic (COVID-19).

Here is some of the legal advice from NUPL while the ECQ is in place in Luzon:

Police cannot arrest an ECQ offender without a warrant. A person can only be arrested in the following situations:

1) When one is caught committing or attempting to commit a crime;

2) During a prosecution, or when a crime has just been committed and the police or law enforcement officer has probable reason to believe, on the basis of personal knowledge, that the ‘we have committed such a crime; and,

3) In the case of a prisoner or a person deprived of liberty who has escaped from prison.

If these circumstances do not apply, a valid arrest warrant is required to apprehend a person.

Police cannot arrest someone who has left the house and does not have a face mask, has not brought / does not have a quarantine pass or emergency pass, or violated the social distancing rule or the curfew.

The NUPL said these are not included in the list of prohibited acts or acts punished under Republic Law 11469 or Bayanihan to heal as a single act. These acts also do not constitute a violation of the Law on the mandatory declaration of notifiable diseases.

The violations set out in the Bayanihan for One-Act Healing are:

1) Governors, mayors or presidents of barangay or any elected representative of the province, city, municipality or barangay (unit of local government) who disobey the policies or directives of national governments regarding the implementation of the ECQ.

The NUPL noted that the offenders cited here are government officials and not ordinary citizens.

2) Owners and possessors of private hospitals, medical and health establishments, including passenger ships, and other establishments which unjustifiably refuse to operate in accordance with the directive of the President.

3) People who accumulate and hide or obstruct basic necessities (food, clothing, medical and other health equipment, oil, etc.) or sell them at higher prices.

4) Refusal to prioritize and accept contracts for materials and services necessary for the implementation of the national COVID-19 policy.

5) Refusal of banks and financial institutions to grant 30-day grace periods to pay off loans and other financial obligations.

6) Create or disseminate false information or fake news in social media or other platforms about the COVID-19 crisis that is not beneficial to the population and will only create chaos, panic, fear or the confusion. This includes scams, fraudulent and malicious emails, among others.

7) Failure to respect reasonable limitations on the operation of public transport and private cars; and,

8) Construction or maintenance of illegal structures in public areas blocking roads and bridges.

The NUPL said that if these violations were not committed by specific people or entities, there would be no violation of the so-called Bayanihan to heal as a single act. In this case, there is no basis for arrest especially when there is no warrant.

The group added that the only violation cited in the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Interest Act” is the non-cooperation of a person or entity identified as seriously. ill or affected by health events of interest to the public or those familiar with them.

According to the NUPL, if a person is not covered by these laws but has been arrested, detained, punished and wrongly charged, the case should be closed and those who made the arrest should be held accountable.

Violators of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act can be jailed for two months with a fine of 10,000 to 1 million pesos. Those found to have violated the mandatory reporting law can be jailed for six months with a fine of P20,000-50,000.

The NUPL reiterated that anything beyond said sanctions and sanctions of said laws related to COVID-19 is prohibited.

“Physical or mental torture, excessive, cruel, degrading, irritating, non-verbal punishment or forced service are also prohibited,” the group said.

In cases where a city ordinance prohibits people from going out without face masks, quarantine passes or emergency passes or if social distancing is not respected or has violated curfew, the NUPL has stated that the ordinance must state explicitly that these are prohibited and that there is punishment for not having disobeyed the ordinance.

“If there is no order or if it is invalid, the arrest and punishment is wrong and illegal,” NUPL said.

Document incidents of abuse. The NUPL reminded the public to immediately document any violation of their fundamental rights. “Write down the incident right away, take a photo or video of the incident and keep it as proof,” the group said.

Rights advocates added that it is important to obtain the identity of individuals, units or offices who abuse their power and impose unfair and unlawful sentences. This can be used later as evidence in the filing of various charges such as criminal, civil or administrative cases.

The group reiterated that the right of people to live with dignity should not be ignored, even in times of pandemic.

They added: “It is the duty of the state to guarantee and protect human rights at all times, especially in times of crisis when the temptation or desire to resort to the abuse of power is strong.

For a more detailed list of legal advice, go to the NUPL Facebook page. (https://www.bulatlat.com)


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