PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has ordered police to arrest people who do not wear their anti-Covid-19 face masks and face shields properly. During his weekly program “Talk to the People” last Wednesday night, the President said: “My orders to the police are, those who are not wearing their mask properly, in order to protect the public.... arrest them and detain them. Investigate them why they are doing it.”
The chief executive added: “If I don’t tighten the rules, nothing will happen. I am having a hard time here. Our funds our running out and yet you continue to act reckless. You really end up at the police station.”
This order contradicts the earlier stand of the Department of Justice not to arrest violators of health protocols, especially those who are not wearing a face mask and a face shield. Last month, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra urged the task force leading the country’s pandemic response not to arrest or detain violators but make them do community service instead.
Earlier, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia cautioned police against maltreating those who are caught not wearing face masks in public areas as she planned to scrap the fine and other penalties that are imposed on violators. She said she will issue a memorandum directing the mayors to let off violators with just a warning and a reminder to adhere to minimum public health standards. “They can be reminded to wear a mask, admonished to wear a mask but never should they be mistreated.”
Is there a conflict on the two different directives from the President and from the governor? I think so. This might confuse police whom to follow, the order of the President, who is the commander-in-chief or the governor who also has direct control and supervision over police in the province.
If I were the police commander, of course, I will follow the order of the President. But it’s good that Cebu Police Provincial Office Director Engelbert Soriano will seek Capitol’s guidance on this matter so his men will not be in a dilemma.
If this was a basketball game, the ball is in the hands of our police. It is up to them to dribble or shoot. The police should have the prerogative to fully and strictly enforce the order, depending on the situation. They should be extra careful in implementing the order. The order of the President to arrest and detain might be misinterpreted by police and is always subject to abuse.
Arresting and detaining beyond the reglementary period? There have been several cases of human rights violations of such kind in Metro Manila during the lockdown.
Violators were detained for several days without charges being filed. In Cebu, there have been cases of physical violence inflicted by police on violators. This order might be interpreted by the police like that shoot-to-kill order against those involved in the illegal drug trade without specifying to shoot only those who fight back. The result? There were so many indiscriminate killings in the administration’s anti-drug campaign and the police would just claim the victims were “nanlaban” (fought back) to justify their action.
For me, the President’s order is too arbitrary and harsh. Even if we are in the midst of a health crisis, our basic human rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights in our Constitution are still in effect. Violators of our criminal laws should still be given due process and have the right to be heard. One should be charged first and should be given the opportunity to answer charges before being meted a corresponding penalty. Local government units (LGUs) have ordinances, which stipulate penalties imposed against violators of minimum health protocols depending on the degree of the violation.
But let me be clear on this. The order of Gwen is still to wear face masks in public places but violators should not be arrested and penalized. Maybe that order should still be followed by police but recidivists (repeat offenders) and the hard-headed should be disciplined and penalized. Maybe a minimal fine and community service will suffice. There is no more reason for people in the province not to wear face masks as the Department of Social Welfare and Development just donated three million face masks to the province, which has a population of a little more than three million. Sobra na to uy. Kanang mga gahi og ulo angayan lang gyud nang disiplinahon.
Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella has lifted the liquor ban that he imposed when Covid-19 cases went up last February. The lifting took effect on Thursday, May 6. This is in consideration of the request of the business sector, which has been greatly affected by the ban. But despite the lifting, it is not the same as the “good old days” when anybody could just drink wherever he wanted.
In his Executive Order 130, the chief executive laid down some restrictions on drinking alcoholic beverages. Drinking in public places, especially by the side of the road and on the street, is strictly prohibited. Bars and restaurants serving beverages should secure first special permits and their customers should still observe social distancing inside the establishment. The establishment will send a representative to be trained to become health infection and prevention control officers by the Emergency Operations Center. No more drinking sessions during curfew hours from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. and all establishments should observe operating hours. O, tagay na. But drink moderately.