On March 16, 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte addressed the nation and declared an enhanced community quarantine covering the whole region of Luzon in an attempt to contain the spread of the Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). In line with this, the government instituted different measures to ensure compliance with the quarantine guidelines most of which caused differing opinions and responses from the general public.
When community transmission of the coronavirus disease was confirmed by the Department of Health, President Duterte immediately implemented a community quarantine over Metro Manila, the guidelines for the community quarantine were outlined in a memorandum of the Executive Secretary dated March 13, 2020. On March 16, 2020, owing to the increasing number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease, the President implemented an “enhanced community quarantine” covering the whole Luzon region, the details of which are outlined in the memorandum of the Executive Secretary dated March 16, 2020.
The General Community Quarantine of the March 13 Memorandum is defined as one where the movement of people shall be limited to accessing basic necessities and work; and uniformed personnel and quarantine officers shall be present at border points. On the other hand, an Enhanced Community Quarantine is one where strict home quarantine shall be implemented in all households; transportation shall be suspended; provision for food and essential health services shall be regulated; and heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedures will be implemented.
Upon declaration of the enhanced community quarantine, the March 16 Memorandum adopted stringent measures. Classes and all school activities were suspended until April 14, 2020. Mass gatherings are also prohibited. Public transport has been suspended while land, air, and sea travel has been restricted. Only businesses catering to essential services shall remain open during the duration of the enhanced community quarantine
A resolution signed by 17 Mayors stated that they would issue the necessary ordinance imposing a curfew from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. in an effort to make their constituents stay at home as much as possible. Arrests may be effected for violations of curfew ordinances under the Revised Penal Code provisions on Assault, Bribery, and Slander as confirmed by the Secretary of the Department of Justice.
Compliance with Quarantine Guidelines
President Duterte also deputized the Armed Forces of the Philippines in order to augment the personnel of the Philippine National Police who will be manning the checkpoints during the enhanced community quarantine. Concerns among the public arose after Police Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas, Regional Director of the NCRPO, stated that violators of the quarantine guidelines issued will be arrested.
To date, the Quarantine Law of 2004 only penalizes those who fail to disclose or comply with the mandatory reportorial requirements in cases involving diseases posing a threat to public health. Thus, people who persistently fail to maintain the proper social distancing and public transport that continually offers its services in order to help people travel within or out of the quarantine zone cannot be arrested.
Times of crises have and always will pose difficult questions and problems, with no one-size-fits-all solution. This pandemic is definitely a crisis. Police and Army presence at checkpoints will always be questioned, and will continue to be justified in the name of peace and order (it is arguable that potential looting and robberies may occur in these trying times due to the lack of social safety nets, hence the government’s call for employers to pitch in). Hopefully, at some point in the quarantine, health related solutions will be more visible, as this is after all a health crisis in its heart. It is hoped that Humanity will get through this event.
The authors believe that Humanity will survive, but we fervently hope that our humanity will still be intact when the dust settles.
Times of crises will never be easy, so there is all the more reason for us to look out for one another.
Department of Health Advisory on Alert Levels – https://www.facebook.com/OfficialDOHgov/posts/3127519987259232
Arrests during Community Quarantine- https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2020/03/14/2000845/arrests-during-community-quarantine-doj-says-only-assault-bribe-slander
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