MANILA - Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday said authorities should teach the public how to properly wear face masks instead of sending them to jail immediately.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier ordered the police to arrest people who wear their face masks improperly.
Robredo cited Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra's statement last month that quarantine violators should be penalized with community service instead of fines or jail time.
"'Yung tamang response dun, turuan kung papaano ang tamang paggamit. Para sa 'kin, ‘di nakakatulong na ang default natin, aresto. Unang-una, ang sitwasyon nga sa mga jail natin, grabe," she said in her weekly radio show.
(The correct response is teach them how to properly use it. It doesn't help that our default response is to arrest people. First of all, the situation in our jails is extreme.)
"Para sa 'kin, yung multa, 'yun na ang later step. Sa 'kin, mag-warning, turuan. 'Pag matigas talaga ang ulo, isipin ano ang puwedeng penalties na ibigay."
(Fines could be a later step. For me, warn them, teach them, and if they're really hardheaded, think of possible penalties.)
The Department of the Interior and Local Government said it would reconcile Duterte's order with local ordinances on mask-wearing and subsequent penalties for violations.
The Commission on Human Rights and members of the Makabayan bloc in Congress have warned that the order to arrest and detain face mask violators could lead to possible human rights abuses.
"We may be in quarantine due to the pandemic, but rights should not be on lockdown," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said, even as she reiterated "the need for everyone to observe health protocols during the pandemic, including the proper wearing of face masks."
The Philippines on Saturday reported 6,979 new COVID-19 cases, bringing its total to 1,094,849, of which 63,376 were active infections.
The OCTA research group on Sunday identified the following cities as "areas of concern" following a rise in COVID-19 cases: Puerto Princesa, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga City, and Bacolod.
OCTA research fellow Guido David said daily virus cases in Metro Manila has declined to an average of 2,100 from a peak of 5,500, while virus reproduction rate has gone down to 0.67.
Metro Manila and its surrounding provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal were placed under enhanced community quarantine from March 29 until April 11, and then under modified ECQ from April 12 until May 14.