Biking without face shield detains doctor for days

Cainta prosecutors had approved charges of simple disobedience and unjust vexation against a doctor in Cainta, Rizal who was caught for biking without a face shield, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said.

"The inquest resolution is for filing of simple disobedience and unjust vexation," Prosecutor General Ben Malcontento told Rappler in a message Thursday, April 8, citing information from the provincial prosecutor.

Malcontento said the bail amount was P3,000 per case, or P6,000 for the two cases.

A person claiming to be a friend of the doctor had posted a series of tweets on the incident, which had gone viral since the doctor's arrest Sunday morning, April 4.

The doctor was held in police custody until Wednesday afternoon, the friend said in the tweets. Rappler reached out to this friend, but they requested to be kept anonymous.

The doctor resisted arrest when he was apprehended without a warrant, after which the Cainta Police filed the complaints, said the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Joint memorandum circular No. 2021-0001, however, exempts bikers from wearing face shields while cycling.

"Due to the possible vision impairment face shields bring, bikers and users of other forms of active transport are exempted from the mandatory use of face shields outside of their residences provided that they wear face shields before and after biking or engaging in any other active transport," said the circular issued jointly by various national government agencies on January 12, 2021.

Held for almost 4 days

The doctor was held in police custody from Sunday morning to Wednesday afternoon, which is almost 4 days.

Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code requires that people arrested without warrant should be brought to court within 12, 18, or 36 hours, the maximum being for the gravest offenses, or otherwise be released. Almost 4 days in custody definitely lapses the period.

Rappler had been trying to get in touch with Cainta police chief Lt. Col. Rodolfo Santiago, but the line was busy Wednesday late afternoon, April 7, and was told Thursday morning that the chief was currently at a checkpoint.

The friend said on Twitter that there was a proceeding with the prosecutor on Tuesday, April 6, presumably the inquest, but that there was no resolution issued because of lack of manpower at the office.

The arrest of the doctor comes amid a recent pronouncement from Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra that quarantine violators should neither be arrested nor jailed, and instead just be subjected to community service.

Virus transmission in jails

PNP Spokesperson Brigadier General Ildebrandi Usana said that there is no validated information yet that people have exhibited COVID-19 symptoms in police station cells, which had raised the problem of virus transmission among people arrested simply for not following all quarantine rules.

"As regards COVID symptoms among those persons in station cells, that is not yet validated. Otherwise the police [station] would have been on a lockdown," said Usana in a statement sent to reporters.

This was the problem last year with detention cells under the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), which had pushed the Supreme Court to commit newly-arrested persons in police station cells instead.

The station cells are not that much safer, because last year, from March to June amid the pandemic, 130 detainees in these cells died, 4 of which were confirmed to be due to COVID-19.

The Joint Task Force COVID Shield has stopped releasing data on how many quarantine violators have been arrested and charged. Their data last year showed that policemen had arrested hundreds daily, their releases severely delayed because courts and prosecutorial dockets could not keep up.With reports from Jairo Bolledo/Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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