MANILA (UPDATE) - Quezon City's memorandum on the warrantless arrest of quarantine violators lacks legal basis, the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) said Wednesday.
However, City Attorney Nino Casimiro disputed the claim of the lawyers' group, saying there is "ample legal basis" on the the city's public health ordinances citing different laws.
NUPL president Edre Olalia said the law cited by the memo only covers government agencies and health personnel who fail to give alerts on infectious disease, and those who test positive for the novel coronavirus who fail to obey authorities.
The memo by Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte cited the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases Act. Those who violate protocols on mass gatherings, social distancing, and wearing of face masks risk a fine of P20,000 to P50,000 and imprisonment of up to 6 months.
The legislation does not cover the violations identified in the memo of Metro Manila's most populous city, he said.
At least 2 cases that had cited the law against quarantine violators had been dismissed, he added.
"Anumang ordinansa na ilalabas ng LGU, kailangan mayroong salalayan o batay din sa isang batas na aplikable. Sa insidente pong ito, hindi po aplikable iyong [Republic Act] 1132," Olalia said.
(Any ordinance issued by the LGU need to be based on an applicable law. In this incident RA 1132 is not applicable.)
"Wala kang pinagbabatayan na itapon mo sa kulungan ang isang indibidwal na diumano lumalabag sa ordinansa," he said.
(You have no basis to throw in jail an individual who supposedly violated the ordinance.)
Funds that will be spent for the ordinance should instead be used to buy masks for residents and an information drive about the pandemic, he suggested.
"Imbes na iyong puwersa saka iyong medyo kamay na bakal na approach, kailangan public health po iyong approach natin saka iyong makatao," Olalia said.
(Instead of force and an iron fist approach, we need a public health approach that is humane.)
Quezon City has the second highest COVID-19 tally in the country with 6,292 cases as of Wednesday, according to the health department's website.
AMPLE LEGAL BASIS
In a statement released Friday, Casimiro said the guidelines on arrest for quarantine violations had "ample legal basis."
First, Article 2, Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution provides that the “protection of life” and “promotion of the general welfare” are essential for democracy, he said.
Section 15 of the same Article provides that the State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them, he added.
Casimiro also said Section 16 of the Local Government Code provides that the city has the power to do all things necessary to promote general welfare, promote health and safety, maintain peace and order and preserve the comfort and convenience of its inhabitants.
Section 458 of the same Code provides that the city council may adopt measures to protect the city from the harmful effects of natural disasters and calamities, he added.
Lastly, Casimiro said Section 6 of Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act provides that local governments have the authority to enforce rapid containment, quarantine and isolation, disease prevention and control measures.
"In any case, the city assures the public that strict enforcement of its ordinances shall be tempered by understanding, tolerance and respect of the people’s fundamental rights," he said.
"The city will also continue its efforts to educate the public of the important safety measures necessary to protect everyone’s health," he added. — With a report from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News