Confusion in Manila keeps over 20 curfew violators in jail for 2 days

Lian Buan

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Confusion in Manila keeps over 20 curfew violators in jail for 2 days
Prolonged detentions aside, Justice Secretary Guevarra is not changing his stance on warrantless arrests

MANILA, Philippines – Confusion over work arrangements and effectivity of the curfew in the capital city of Manila kept over 20 people in jail for almost two days, many of them poor.

Manila’s Chief Inquest Officer Jovencio Senados said that they released on Friday, March 20, the 22 to 23 people arrested for violating Manila’s city ordinance imposing an 8 pm-5 am curfew for the duration of Luzon’s lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Senados told Rappler in a phone interview on Friday that many of those arrested were either homeless, vendors, or people who needed to go to work.

The arrested people were kept in detention for almost two days, since Wednesday, March 18, which was a procedural gap because they should have been released immediately.

Kapag ang inquest case ay para sa violation ng city ordinance, kahit for filing ang kaso nya, nire-release na namin because it’s a  minor offense. That is our office policy,” said Senados.

(If the inquest case is over violation of a city ordinance, even though we will file charges, we also release immediately because it’s a minor offense. That is our office policy.)

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, who initially said that there were no judges to process one’s bail, eventually clarified there were no inquest staff available to take on the cases.

In the legal process, a warrantless arrest will have to undergo inquest, after which the inquest prosecutors file charges in court where those arrested can post bail. (READ: Cops arrest homeless Lola who shouted at tanods warning about curfew)

File but release

As Senados said, the people did not need to wait for the filing of charges because of their policy of releasing them right away. 

However, Senados said that because of the difficulty of getting to work due to the suspension of mass transportation, he and his staff decided to go to work only on March 19, Thursday.

Akala ko Thursday pa ang effectivity ng curfew (I thought curfew was only effective Thursday),” said Senados.

The Manila City Council conceded that their ordinance was supposed to take effect on March 19, to comply with the rule that an ordinance must be published before it takes effect. 

But the council changed its mind and decided it would take effect immediately, or on Monday, March 16, skirting the process. The change was apparently not cascaded to the city government personnel and the public. 

Senados said the many of the staff are city government employees, whose work had already been suspended.

“Kahit ‘yung staff ko na gustong-gusto pumasok hindi makapasok. ‘Yung isa bumili na nga ng bike,” said Senados.

(Even my staff who badly want to go to work cannot go to work. One of them bought a bike.)

The Department of Justice (DOJ) kept inquest proceedings open precisely to respond to these situations.

In a text message to reporters, Prosecutor General Ben Malcontento called it a “minor procedural issue.”

“What happened in Manila yesterday was a minor procedural issue with the MPD (Manila Police District) brought about by the Manila lockdown,” Malcontento said. –


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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.