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Philippine police to enforce mandatory masking

In this March 17, 2020 photo, some public utility vehicles still ferry some stranded commuters along EDSA in Cubao, Quezon City following the suspension of all public transport in line with the strict implementation of the enhanced community quarantine. The STAR/Miguel de Guzman. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

MANILA, May 8, 2021, The Manila Times. President Duterte’s order to the police to arrest people not wearing face masks is immediately executory, according to the Department of Justice (DoJ), The Manila Times reported.

“The President’s directive takes effect immediately even without the guidelines,” said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

Just the same, Guevarra said the DoJ is drafting a set of guidelines to provide the directive the necessary legal footing in case it is challenged in court.

Guevarra said in the absence of guidelines, existing laws and ordinances related to health protocols will suffice in empowering the police to make an arrest for not wearing safety masks or for not wearing them properly.

“Existing laws and ordinances define the prohibited acts and ijposed the corresponding penalties therefore, and the relevant rules of court govern the procedure,” he said.

He said practically all local government units (LGUs) have some kind of ordinance related to the enforcement of health protocols.

Guevarra said violators of health regulations will undergo inquest proceedings and face charges.

He said the President’s directive is in line with the government’s strategy to strictly implement health rules to contain the spread of Covid-19 and allow economic recovery to be fast-tracked.

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

Even before the President issued the order, Guevarra had proposed that LGUs consider imposing community service as an alternative to stiff fines or imprisonment as a penalty for the violation of ordinances related to health protocols.

He said the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority had agreed with his proposal.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has reservations about the masking directive.

Jacqueline de Guia, CHR spokesman, said the order “may be prone to excessive discretion and abuse.”

“With the rise of human rights violations arising from violations of health protocols, we have stressed the need for reasonable and humane disciplinary measures for violators,” de Guia said.

She pointed out that individuals caught not wearing masks were often “reprimanded, fined, or asked to perform community service,” but not arrested and detained.

“In the end, it is through intensive education and information campaigns — not fear — that would best result in better compliance with [health] and safety protocols,” de Guia said.

“We may be in quarantine due to the pandemic, but rights should not be on lockdown,” she added.

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