Those arrested for violating health protocols such as not wearing or improperly wearing face masks will not be sent directly to jails or other detention facilities, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said on Sunday, May 30.
Guevarra, in a radio interview, said that bringing the violators directly to the overcrowded jails defeats the purpose of curbing the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
He said it was recommended that the arrested violators should be gathered in a spacious or open-air area for booking and initial investigation.
“Maaring yun ay malawak na sports gymnasium o kaya isang convention center na maluwag o isang basketball court na hindi naman sila mabibilad (These could be large sports gymnasiums, spacious convention centers or even covered basketball courts where people are not exposed to elements),” he said.
He said the procedure on the manner by which arrested violators should be handled has been incorporated in the joint memorandum circular (JCM) on the guidelines governing the apprehension and investigation of persons for violation of health and quarantine protocols.
He said he already signed the JCM last Friday, May 28, and will be immediately implemented once it has been signed by Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Ano and the Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar.
“Hindi naman panibagong batas ito na matatawag. Hindi naman ordinansa ito. Ito ay mga guidelines lamang (This is not a new law. This is not an ordinance. These are just guidelines),” said Guevarra who expressed hopes that the signatures will be completed by Monday, May 31.
He said the guidelines will remind law enforcement of the existing health protocols and measures as well as instruct them how they should arrest and hold violators.
Law enforcement officers must be aware of the existing ordinances in their respective local governments, he also said.
“Ang aming rekomendasyon na gamiting legal basis sa kanilang pag-aaresto ng mga violators ay unang-una kung meron bang ordinansa sa lugar na yun at kung meron man ano ang nilalaman o ano ang pinapahayag ng ordinansa na yun (We have recommended that law enforcement use as basis the ordinances in conducting arrests and what the ordinances mandate),” he said.
“Natural naman na syempre kung walang ordinansa, kung walang batas na ipinapatupad ay wala kang basehan para mag-aresto (It is just natural that if there is no ordinance or law there is no basis for the arrest),” said Guevarra who pointed out that all government units have ordinances on health protocols.
Also covered by the guidelines are barangay officials who fail to implement health protocols like restrictions on mass gatherings.
“Ang mga barangay captains, barangay officials ay nasa ilalim ng Department of the Interior and Local Government kaya saklaw din sila nitong circular na ito (Since barangay officials are under the DILG, they also covered under the guidelines),” he also said.