MANILA - A former law school dean on Tuesday questioned before the Supreme Court the Bayanihan law as well as several presidential issuances imposing the enhanced community quarantine and other measures to address the coronavirus pandemic.
The petition filed by Jaime Ibañez, former law dean of the Laguna State Polytechnic University, is the first challenge brought before the high court on the Philippine government's response to the health crisis.
"This is a test to determine whether the position of Enhanced Community Quarantine in the country complies with the provisions of the Constitution, and also to test whether certain principles in the Republican State are still working in the country," Ibañez told ABS-CBN News shortly after filing his petition.
Ibañez asked the high court to annul Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act on the ground that it is partly unconstitutional "in so far as the imposition in the country of the Enhanced Community Quarantine is concerned."
Ibañez said the law granted the President legislative authority beyond what is necessary and proper to meet the declared policy, supposedly shown by the phrase "for other purposes" in the Bayanihan law.
"Legislative power to make laws is vested in Congress. The President is merely tasked to execute the law," he said in his petition for certiorari and prohibition.
"Hence, it is an undue delegation of legislative power and usurpation of the same, when the President issued Proclamation No. 929 and 922, lacking legislative authority and guidelines passed by Congress in a situation of national emergency."
Presidential Proclamation No. 929, issued on March 16, declared a state of calamity in the entire Philippines, while Presidential Proclamation No. 922, issued on March 8, declared a state of public health emergency in the country.
The President signed the Bayanihan Act into law on March 24.
In addition, Ibañez asked the SC to invalidate Executive Order No. 112 imposing the Enhanced Community Quarantine, and Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) Resolution No. 37 that placed Metro Manila under Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine.
Ibañez argued that because the law was void, the IATF had no valid delegated legislative authority to issue its Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of the Community Quarantine in the Philippines.
"The power to make laws cannot be delegated. The IATF has no power to define the law on quarantine, set its own parameters and restrictions and to even invent the Modified Enhanced Community (Quarantine) according to its own bizarre definition, which all amount to an exercise of grave abuse of discretion or in excess of its jurisdiction," he said.
Among the alleged violations of the Omnibus Guidelines is the restriction on the constitutional right to travel, which he said was "overbroad," "unreasonable and arbitrary," and not related to the purpose sought to be accomplished by the measure.
He also accused the IATF of violating the equal protection and due process clauses when it quarantined all individuals, including those who are not sick of COVID-19, when the Bayanihan Act specified who are covered: only COVID-19 patients, persons under investigation, and person under monitoring.
The Department of Health and the IATF have since done away with the PUI and PUM classification, replacing them with suspected and probable COVID-19 cases, in addition to confirmed cases.
"Locking or putting individuals who are not COVID-19 patients and the like, and placed them to quarantine area with unlimited period, is a complete disregard of the safeguards embodied in the bill of rights," he said.
Given the earlier reasons, Ibañez asked the SC to prohibit the IATF from from further implementing or enforcing its guidelines on community quarantine in the Philippines.
""[T]he better alternative, therefore, is for the government to increase the capacity of health systems and to undertake measures and programs, to test, to trace and to treat COVID-19 patients, persons under investigation (PUI's), and persons under monitoring (PUM's) covered by Republic Act No. 11469, but never to overburden or to over-intrude into private rights of an individual, including his right to liberty as protected in the Bill of Rights, unless he committed a crime or declared a leper or a COVID-19 patient," he said.
The Philippine government recently eased lockdown protocols by shifting to a General Community Quarantine and Modified General Community Quarantine in most parts of the country, although local government units may opt to reimpose ECQ and MECQ.
As of Tuesday noon, the Philippine health department has recorded more than 18,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 960 deaths and 3,979 recoveries.