MANILA - Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Friday sought to repeal a section of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act which penalizes violators of the government's quarantine policies during the coronavirus crisis, saying the clause has been used to justify "questionable enforcement" of the law.
Section 6 of the Bayanihan Law should be repealed because some Filipinos who were accused of violating quarantine policies should not be treated as criminals, Drilon told the Senate Committee on Finance as the panel tackled a bill that would extend the validity of Republic Act 11469.
"Quarantine violators are driven and motivated by reasons of hunger, by reasons of income, and not because they are criminal" the Senate Minority Leader said.
Drilon flagged several incidents wherein individuals who went out of their homes were either killed or arrested by the police and local officials.
Former Army Cpl. Winston Ragos, who was suffering from a mental health issue, was shot dead by a police officer in a checkpoint, while a barangay captain in Pampanga forced 3 LGBT members to kiss each other for violating the curfew, the senator said.
"We have no problems with the extension of the law... insofar as realigning is concerned... [but] I have serious reservations in reenacting section 6," he said.
Senator Sonny Angara agreed with Drilon, saying the Bayanihan Law "is not intended to be a criminal statute."
"It's meant to help our people and help them cross over and face economic difficulties and empower government so they can help our countrymen," Angara said.
"Dahil ito ay (Since this is a) special law, they cannot claim a lack of criminal intent as a defense... If they are really punishable by other laws, perhaps it would be superfluous to reenact that section," he said.
But Senator Pia Cayetano said there are crimes "specific" to the coronavirus crisis such as the selling of fake quarantine passes and donated medical equipment.
"I really want that one to be criminalized... Hindi naman ito dala ng gutom, dala ito ng kaswapangan," she said.
Drilon said that there are laws that penalizes the falsification of documents and the sale of donated items, but agreed with Cayetano that existing laws need to be reviewed as some of the penalties are already outdated.
The Bayanihan Law, which also authorizes the executive branch to realign funds for coronavirus-related projects and provide cash aid for low-income families, will expire on June 24, 2020.
The Senate is looking to pass a bill that will extend the law until September 2020.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the Palace will likely certify the bill as urgent to ensure that the measure will be passed before Congress goes on break on June 3.