DOJ says quarantine rules applied fairly, public figures also charged for alleged violations

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 22 2020 05:20 PM

A "mañanita" held for Metro Manila police chief Major Gen. Debold Sinas for his birthday on May 8, 2020 at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City drew flak as it was held while Luzon was under strict lockdown, when mass gatherings were prohibited. In this photo posted by the NCRPO on its Facebook page, Sinas is seen bumping fists with a police officer about to hand him a rose. 

MANILA - The Department of Justice denied Wednesday alleged inconsistencies in the application of coronavirus community quarantine policies on the poor and the rich, including public officials, saying it was a matter of perception.

The government applies the law "as uniformly as possible," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said as he explained that many poor Filipinos were caught because they were on the streets.

"I wouldn’t really say that there is an inconsistent application of the rule of law," Guevarra said in a virtual press briefing.

"It just so happens that a greater number of those arrested came from the lower-income groups and that's simply because they were the ones caught on the streets," he added.

The government has been criticized for supposed inconsistencies over the application of COVID-19 policies as some government officials continue to hold office despite violations.

Officials who made headlines for community quarantine violations include Sen. Koko Pimentel, who was rebuked by the management of Makati Medical Center for going to the hospital while he was supposed to be under quarantine. He learned of his COVID-19 diagnosis while at the hospital for his then pregnant wife.

Metro Manila Police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas, meanwhile, drew flak for his birthday mañanita while Luzon was on lockdown as the police official held a birthday celebration at a police camp in Taguig City even if government prohibited mass gatherings.

The justice chief said quarantine violators who belong to "upper-income groups or people who are known in society" are also charged and prosecuted despite public criticism of supposed double standards.

"It’s really a matter of perception. Greater number 'yung mga tao sa masasabi natin na nasa lower income levels, 'yung mga matatawag nating mahihirap na nahuhuli sa mga violations, but it doesn’t mean at all that there is an unfair application of the law," Guevarra said.

(There is a greater number of those from the lower income levels, those we can consider poor who are caught for violations, but it doesn’t mean at all that there is an unfair application of the law.)

"We apply this as uniformly as possible," he added.

Both Pimentel and Sinas are facing charges for alleged quarantine violations.