MANILA - Going outside the residence without travel permit or quarantine pass is not prohibited under Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, a Bulacan court has ruled as it junked a case against a former lawmaker and 8 others.
Former Anakpawis party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao and 8 others were arrested on April 19 at a Bulacan checkpoint for having no travel permit or quarantine pass while on their way to Norzagaray, Bulacan to deliver relief goods.
Police charged them with violation of Sec. 9(d) of RA 11332 allegedly for not cooperating.
In an order dated May 13, Bulacan Metropolitan Trial Court Judge Julie Rita Suarez-Badillo dismissed the case, saying the alleged violation is not covered by the law.
"[T]he Court believes that travelling outside the residence without the travel permit or quarantine pass does not qualify as violation of Section 9(d), RA 11332 which reads: "Non-cooperation of persons and entities that should report and/or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern," she said.
The court examined the whole context of the law and its legislative history, including the Senate and House bills, to conclude that RA 11332 refers to "mandatory reporting of health information about the notifiable diseases as well as cooperation to the response systems to health related events."
Not included, it said, is the act of Casilao and the others of going outside their residences without travel permit or quarantine pass.
"This specific act, to the mind of the Court does not constitute or at the very least contemplate the prohibited act under Section 9(d) or RA 11332," its ruling said.
"While such act illustrates defiance to the open directive to observe the enhanced community quarantine, such infraction however does not fall under the prohibited acts of RA 11332."
The Department of Justice previously cited RA 11332 as among the grounds for possible immediate arrest of violators of the ECQ.
It also cited the Quarantine Act of 2004 or RA 9271 and the Revised Penal Code provisions on resistance and disobedience to a person in authority and direct assault.
Asked specifically if the mere act of stepping outside one’s house for a non-essential purpose could also lead to immediate arrest, DOJ Usec. Markk Perete said in March that this is what RA 11332 provides.
“That is how the law stands, and the reasoning behind it seems pretty straight forward: in times of a health event of a public concern, an unfounded insistence to act in a way that imperils our collective health cannot be sanctioned,” he said.
The case against Casilao and his companions is the first high profile suit where a court has junked the DOJ's interpretation of RA 11332.
Close to 200,000 people have been arrested during the lockdown period, with over 50,000 people charged and more than 10,000 detained during the ECQ.
Rights advocates and public health experts have called for a humane approach in enforcing the community quarantine guidelines set to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The country has logged 23,732 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of June 10, including 1,027 fatalities and 4,895 recoveries. The Philippines' first COVID-19 case was reported on Jan. 30 in a Chinese visitor who arrived from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus causing the disease first emerged.