Belmonte allays fears on warrantless arrest of quarantine violators

Published July 20, 2020, 12:32 PM

by Joseph Pedrajas

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte on Monday assured her constituents there is nothing to be afraid of concerning her memorandum that gives authorities the power to do “warrantless arrest” against individuals violating quarantine protocols in the city.

This came after Belmonte’s memorandum dated July 13, 2020 caused fear among her constituents as she laid out strict guidelines to stem the rising incidents of coronavirus cases in the city.

The memo on the warrantless arrest of quarantine measure violators during community quarantine was addressed to police, city government and barangay officials, and hospital directors.

The memorandum stated that peace officers or private persons can arrest those who have committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense. 

They can also nab persons who they have reason to believe, based on facts or circumstances, have committed a violation.

Belmonte said the memorandum is only a “summary of old laws, ordinances and rules of procedures” of the city. She clarified that it is not a new ordinance as some quarters claim.

“The purpose of this is to make sure that people are informed as well as our law enforcers that they do the right thing,” Belmonte said in an interview over ANC. “If certain words are scaring to our constituents, probably they get the wrong impression about it.”

Belmonte refuted claims circulating on various social media sites and messaging applications that an individual can already be arrested and jailed if he is caught outside his house during curfew hours for any reason or that any person can barge into someone’s house who is violating quarantine protocols.

She added that some supposed provisions being passed around are not actually included in her memorandum.

“Actually, I am aware that there was a massive Viber group exchange in which the guidelines were demonized. It was alarmist in a sense because a lot of provisions they said contained in the memorandum [were] not actually there,” she said.

“The[ir] intention was to show that the memorandum was an excuse for the government to carry out abuse or power and to do indiscriminate arrest,” she added.

While there are measures and actions being prohibited in Quezon City while under quarantine, Belmonte said, there are also exemptions to some cases. She said, they are listed in the Annex section of the memorandum. It is accessible on the city’s website and Facebook page.

“We exercise maximum tolerance and we exercise the law based on reason, common sense and degree in which this particular violation affects others,” Belmonte said, urging the public to thoroughly read the guidelines.

Belmonte also said that the local government and the police will only do booking procedures after apprehending quarantine violators. They will not detain violators as, she said, jails “can be a hotbed for transmission.”

The local chief executive admitted that the term “warrantless arrest” in her memo might have been “scaring” the public but said, there is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, she stressed, the city government has the People’s Law Enforcement Board (PLEB), where residents who will experience abuse of power from authorities can file their complaints.

Belmonte added that she is “willing” to change the “wording” of her memo following a dialogue with those who expressed concern about it.

“…[those] who are apprehensive, or who feel that it is unconstitutional, or who have problems with it, I would like to invite you to a dialogue. I don’t think we should be antagonistic with one another. You have to understand that my objective, our intent here in Quezon City, is to curb transmission of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease),” she said.

“The intent of this guideline was to implement humane, uniform or standard, lawful and proper guidelines that can be followed by all law enforcers… Really the intent of this is precisely to prevent abuse of power,” she added.