MANILA, Philippines – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Dionardo Carlos said on Friday, December 31, that he has instructed the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to file a complaint against the woman accused of having violated quarantine protocols in Makati City.
Carlos said he released the order on Thursday, December 30, based on the instructions of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles on the same day.
The PNP chief ordered the CIDG, Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, National Capital Region Police Office, and PNP Health Service to “investigate the case and file appropriate criminal [complaints against] anyone” found violating the law.
This includes the hotel management allegedly paid by the woman, and Bureau of Quarantine personnel supposedly involved.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) said the woman admitted to skipping quarantine.
The DOT also identified the hotel as Berjaya Makati Hotel in Makati City. The department is conducting a separate probe into Berjaya’s liability in the incident.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters on Friday that this case “may be an opportune time to try” the broad Republic Act (RA) No. 11332.
RA 11332 mandates the cooperation of everyone in a public health crisis, but its use to arrest and charge simple violators like those who are caught not wearing a face mask, or going out during curfew, was slammed by human rights lawyers as an overreach.
The woman allegedly availed of “absentee quarantine” by paying the facility to avoid isolation. She later tested positive for COVID-19 and so did several of her companions at a party.
In the two years of the pandemic, different courts and prosecutors have junked cases involving RA 11332, including the one filed against Senator Koko Pimentel for breaking quarantine in 2020. The urban poor of San Roque, whose demand for aid in 2020 irked President Rodrigo Duterte, are still on trial over this law.
Guevarra has since admitted RA 11332 may not be the most exact law to use, and advised the use of ordinances instead.
“There could have been a major violation of ordinances requiring strict observance, under pain of penalties, of quarantine regulations for international travelers, not only on the part of the person concerned but also of those who might have knowingly cooperated with her in committing such violation,” he said.
Guevarra added that “the applicability of RA 11332 to violations of this sort has not been tested judicially, so this may be an opportune time to try it.”
The PNP was also ordered to take extra measures to prevent similar breaches of health protocols.
Police “will do the rounds, inspection, and accounting of persons under quarantine in the designated hotels-quarantine facilities,” according to Carlos.
Año warned that “violators shall be criminally charged immediately.” – with reports from Lian Buan/Rappler.com