DOJ cites more laws to justify Duterte order to arrest village chiefs in 'super-spreader events'

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 28 2021 06:31 PM | Updated as of May 29 2021 09:17 PM

MANILA (UPDATED)— In an effort to provide more legal bases to the President’s order to arrest barangay chairs or village chiefs in areas where super-spreader events take place, Justice department officials named more laws that could be cited by law enforcers in following the order.

HLINK PRESIDENT'S ORDER: https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/05/27/21/duterte-arrest-barangay-captain-mass-gatherings

These were included in the guidelines the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) have been working on, following yet another order by the President earlier this month to arrest those who improperly wear masks in public places.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Friday afternoon said he signed the joint memorandum circular and it will be routed for signature to the DILG secretary and Philippine National Police chief for their signatures.

Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay told reporters Friday that the guidelines will cover super-spreader events in barangays “in a very general sense.”

“The guidelines provide that the DILG shall hold accountable all local government officials for violation of, among others, the Local Government Code, Revised Penal Code, and RA No. 11469 (Bayanihan to Heal as One Act) for failure to enforce all relevant guidelines, laws, and ordinances,” he said in a message.

DOJ spokesperson Usec. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, meanwhile, pointed to section 6 of the Bayanihan 1 which imposes a 2-month jailtime or a fine of between P10,000 to P1 million or both, on LGU officials disobeying national government policies or directives in imposing quarantines. 

But in a Viber message sent to ABS-CBN News, Sugay clarified that Bayanihan 1 could not be a basis for the guidelines because the law had already lapsed. 

He said among the basis that could be used for Duterte's order could be the Local Government Code and the Revised Penal Code.

Bayanihan Act 1 was valid only for 3 months last year. 

A quick check of Bayanihan 2 showed there are no provisions on penalties, unlike in Bayanihan 1.

President Rodrigo Duterte cited the provision on dereliction of duty under the Revised Penal Code to justify law enforcers immediately arresting village chiefs.

Aglipay-Villar said that what might be applicable is Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code which punishes a 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.”

In addition, Sugay referred to section 60 of the Local Government Code which lists dereliction of duty alongside dishonesty, oppression, misconduct in office and gross negligence as grounds for disciplinary action of LGU officials. 

RELATED VIDEO: 

Watch more on iWantTFC

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Wednesday night also suggested Art. 365 of the Revised Penal Code on reckless imprudence, although Sugay on Thursday told ANC Rundown that there is a need to study further the provisions Duterte and Panelo cited to justify arrests of village chiefs.

Instead, he said they could make arrests on the basis of local ordinances.

But in a separate interview on Headstart Thursday, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said warrantless arrests can apply if barangay leaders are present in super-spreader events as that would indicate personal knowledge on their part that an illegal activity is happening.

The guidelines, Sugay said, also provide that the PNP shall strictly observe the Rules of Court, particularly the rule on warrantless arrests, and relevant policies protocols in the enforcement of all relevant rules, guidelines, and ordinances. 

The pronouncements of DOJ officials on Friday providing national laws as bases for the arrests differ from an earlier position it took in April this year.

Guevarra had said then it might be better to cite local ordinances in making arrests of quarantine violators, and rather imposing jailtime or fines, impose community service instead.

That position in April was also a departure from the DOJ’s position in March last year when it cited 3 national laws to justify arrests of quarantine violators, only to concede this year that RA 11332 on mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases does not apply to those who are not afflicted with COVID-19, following losses in some cases in courts across the country.