MANILA - Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Saturday no person could be arrested for simply trying to enter Metro Manila during the month-long quarantine after authorities warned it would arrest community quarantine violators.
“No, just being physically prevented from entering or exiting,” he told reporters in a message when asked if police can arrest anyone who defies the suspension of land, domestic sea and domestic air travel to and from the National Capital Region (NCR).
“But if the person assaults the law enforcement agent, or slanders him, or bribes him, then that's cause for a warrantless arrest,” he explained.
Metro Manila is set to undergo quarantine starting Sunday, March 15, until Tuesday, April 15, as government moved to contain the fast-spreading coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas earlier said community quarantine violators would be arrested, prompting human rights lawyer Chel Diokno to tweet that trying to enter Metro Manila is not a crime.
“The PNP cannot arrest and detain you for violating public health emergency measures. Pwede ka nilang harangin at wag papasukin, na tama lang naman kung kailangan, pero hindi ka nila pwedeng arestuhin at ikulong dahil hindi naman krimen ang subukang pumasok sa Metro Manila,” Diokno said.
(The PNP cannot arrest and detain you for violating public health emergency measures. They can stop and prevent you from entering, which is just right if necessary, but they cannot arrest and detain you because trying to enter Metro Manila is not a crime.)
On Saturday morning, the Metro Manila Council, composed of the region's mayors, passed a resolution urging local government units to issue ordinances imposing city- or municipality-wide curfews in their areas from 8 p.m. to 5 p.m. during the quarantine period.
Guevarra said that unless there is an ordinance, no arrests can also be made for violating the curfew.
“Depende 'yan sa local ordinance of the city concerned. Kung walang ordinance, no arrests (as in detention) can be made,” he said.
(It depends on the local ordinance of the city concerned. If there’s no ordinance, no arrests (as in detention) can be made.)
Aside from imposing a curfew, the Metro Manila Council also suggested closing malls temporarily, except supermarkets, pharmacies and other establishments offering essential services.
Guevarra dispelled concerns that the country was under martial law.
“We are not in a state of martial law. We are fighting a common but relatively unknown enemy, a dangerous and lethal virus known as COVID-19. The PNP, assisted by the AFP, will be on the streets not to sow fear but to protect us,” he said.
“So let us please cooperate and help each other until this public health emergency is over. This is a phenomenon that is happening not only in our country, but also elsewhere around the world. By standing united and fighting together, we shall beat this enemy,” he added.