‘Respect for human rights, rule of law should prevail in person’s arrest’ – CHR

Commission on Human Rights

First, it was the arrest of persons who do not wear or who improperly wear face masks in public places.

Now, it is the arrest of barangay captains (chairmen) who fail to enforce restrictions against mass gatherings in their areas.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said that while the government is fed up with violations of protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) by ordering arrests of violators and those who fail to enforce the rules, “respect for human rights and the rule of law should be the guiding principles.”

"Communities play an important role in curbing the transmission of COVID-19. CHR sees it as a duty of the government to underscore compliance to health protocols at the local level," CHR Spokesperson and lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia said on Friday, May 28.

"At all times, we remind the government to observe the rule of law. Should there be arrests of barangay leaders for failure to prevent mass gatherings, we hope that the arrests will not be arbitrary and will be done in accordance with the law," De Guia said.

Last Wednesday, President Duterte ordered the arrest of barangay captains who fail to enforce the rules against mass gatherings in their areas.

The President said the barangay leaders could be charged with dereliction of duty under the Revised Penal Code (RPC) since they are “persons in authority” who must enforce the law in their communities.

Article 208 of RPC provides that "the penalty of prision correccional (jail term ranging from six months and one day to six years) in its minimum period and suspension shall be imposed upon any public officer, or officer of the law, who, in dereliction of the duties of his office, shall maliciously refrain from instituting prosecution for the punishment of violators of the law, or shall tolerate the commission of offenses."

Last April, the President ordered the arrest, detention, and investigation of persons who do not wear masks or improperly wear them in public places.

The arrests on mask violations have been enforced by local government units and law enforcement agencies. The Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior and Local Government are set to issue the guidelines.