By Chito Chavez
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has ordered the local government units (LGUs) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to close down non-essential business establishments until April 30 while the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) holds.
As stated in DILG Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 2020-062, LGUs are enjoined to ensure the closure of business establishments, except those providing or manufacturing basic necessities such as food, medicine, water, banking and remittance centers, power, energy, telecommunication, and the like. In all such establishments allowed to operate, the LGUs must monitor to ensure the operation of a skeletal workforce only, as well as strict social distancing measures.
“Make sure that business establishments that are not allowed to operate under IATF guidelines remain closed. The ECQ is still in full force and effect. There is no partial lifting whatsoever. Our country will heal as one if and only if the government, the private sector, and the people stick to the strict enforcement of ECQ,” said DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año.
Año issued the directive after the DILG received reports that some non-essential commercial establishments are still operating in some localities.
He ordered the PNP to arrest anyone resisting or disobeying the policies against the closure of non-essential commercial outfits.
“Nasa gitna tayo ng state of public health emergency at kalamidad. Ang mga pasaway ay maaaring arestuhin sa paglabag sa Article 151 ng Revised Penal Code (RPC) (We are in the midst of the state of public health emergency and calamity. Stubborn individuals may be arrested for violation of Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC)). The law punishes resistance and disobedience to a person in authority or the agents of such person,” he said.
The penalty for violating Article 151 of the RPC is arresto mayor, or imprisonment of one month and one day to six months, and a fine not exceeding P100,000.
Earlier, the Department of Justice (DOJ) also announced that any violation during the ECQ may also be punishable under Republic Act No. 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.
Among the prohibited acts under RA 11332 is non-cooperation of persons and entities that should report and/or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern.
If found guilty, there will be a penalty of not more than six (6) months imprisonment or a fine of not more than P50,000.
The DILG chief also clarified that police officers and the armed forces are protectors of public safety as well as public health.
He explained that non-essential businesses that are breaking the ECQ and opening their stores would jeopardize the efforts of the government and will waste all the gains we have so far achieved.
DILG Undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan E. Malaya said the DILG is actively working with the members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) in studying how to balance the economic concerns and interests with the imposition of the ECQ.
“The government is taking into account the impact of the ECQ to our national and local economies. The IATF is carefully studying the next steps but one thing for sure is that we have to exercise caution and prudence regarding the partial lifting of the ECQ after April 30. We are optimistic but we must always base our recommendations to the President on scientific evidence,” Malaya said.