Hoarders, profiteers during state of calamity face prison terms

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 19 2020 04:14 AM

MANILA - Anyone found guilty of hoarding, profiteering, and other such acts during the current state of calamity in the Philippines will face up to 15 years in prison, according to the government.

Under Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2020-01, people found involved in product overpricing, profiteering, hoarding and cartel operations during the state of calamity imposed March 16 will be imprisoned "of not less than 5 years, but not more than 15 years."

They will also be slapped with up to P2 million in fines.

According to the circular, prices of basic necessities in the Philippines are automatically frozen at their "prevailing prices or placed under automatic price control" for 60 days during the state of calamity.

Section 5 of the JMC, which outlines automatic price control, said "prices...shall not increase in the retail market for any reason or for any purpose, for the next sixty (60) days upon its (state of calamity) declaration" until May 15, unless President Rodrigo Duterte lifts it sooner.

A team composed of personnel from the Department of Trade and other concerned agencies will monitor and enforce the mandate on prices to prevent profiteering, hoarding and other such acts.

"Tulong-tulong iba-ibang ahensya, so whole-government approach ngayon," Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a press briefing late Wednesday.

Consumers can report violations related to the JMC to DTI's hotline 1-384, or to nearest police stations, he said, citing Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano's directive to police personnel to enforce strictly the price freeze.

"Marami na ho kaming nasita because of that (hotline)," Lopez said.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said complaints can also be reported to their contact number 0951-144-3233.

Those who will be given a notice of violation should explain their actions within 24 hours, before facing charges.

Local government units should also monitor market rates and enforce the price freeze, according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

"Dapat binabantayan ng ating local price coordinating council na which is composed of the LGU," he said.

The Philippines was placed under state of calamity on Tuesday after cases of the deadly coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) rapidly rose since March 6.

As of Wednesday, 202 cases were recorded in the country, 17 of whom died.