By Jonathan Hicap
The majority floor leader of Muntinlupa’s City Council said the ordinance imposing curfew in the city has enough basis considering that the country is under threat of a possible spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
City Ordinance 2020-065 was approved by councilors on March 14 during a special session, and Mayor Jaime Fresnedi is expected to sign it on March 16, the date of effectivity of the measure. The daily curfew will be from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., and will be in effect until April 14.
Councilor and lawyer Raul Corro said that “the alarming increase in the spread of the novel coronavirus calls for a decisive, urgent action.”
“As it is, for every day of delay in our action to contain the spread of the virus, it will mean the exponential increase in people getting infected; that is the premise of the ordinance, that must be the same premise of the MMC Resolution of the MMDA,” he said.
On March 14, the Metro Manila Council, that included Fresnedi, passed a resolution urging city and municipal councils in the National Capital Region to pass an ordinance declaring a curfew in their respective areas.
The MMC resolution was based on President Rodrigo Duterte’s Resolution No. 11 that placed the entire Metro Manila under community quarantine to stem the spread of the virus.
Under Muntinlupa’s curfew measure, exempted are “those who work at night such as call center agents, hospital personnel such as doctors, nurses, and other health personnel, ambulance drivers, security guards and those who may be allowed by the Task Force herein created.”
In addition, the delivery of basic necessities like food and medicines, and public transport services like buses, jeepneys and tricycles are also exempted as well as peace and order personnel in both city and barangay levels, and emergency cases as determined by the Muntinlupa Traffic Management Bureau (MTMB).
Corro explained that as a general rule under normal circumstances, “an ordinance must undergo three readings (three weeks to one month including the public hearing) before it is passed and if it is punitive in nature, publication is required. For every rule, there is an exception, especially if the exception is justifiable under the circumstances.”
“An emergency situation such as the spread of the coronavirus requires urgent action and as time is of the essence, public interest dictates that we must act fast to protect the health of the people.The law, the internal rules are meant to achieve a purpose, to facilitate the process. But this is not an ordinary time where every legal step must be followed,” he added.
The local ordinance requires that widespread dissemination be done before the March 16 effectivity.
“And in this modern time where anything can be spread fast thru social media and other means of spreading the news, it is enough that people are informed about the passage of the ordinance. While there is a punitive provision, it is merely a fine and not an imprisonment, which requires a more stringent requirement of due process,” Corro said.
He said the main goal of restricting people’s movement for a temporary period to stop the spread of COVID-19 “is defeated if we go thru the normal process of calling a public hearing (no mass gathering allowed this time) and if we publish the ordinance in a newspaper of general circulation. If we publish it in a newspaper, as required by law, perhaps less people will be informed about it than if we post it in social media which can spread as fast as the virus itself.”