Q1: ARE THE CONSTITUTION AND LAWS STILL IN EFFECT?
Yes. They are not suspended even amidst a public health emergency like the current outbreak of COVID-19. Civilian authority should be supreme.
So basic civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights should be respected and protected.
These include, among others, the right to freedom of speech and expression (and to dissent, criticize and complain as much as to suggest, recommend and praise) and freedom of the press and media without prior restraint or subsequent punishment.
Q2: ARE THE ENHANCED COMMUNITY QUARANTINE MEASURES A DECLARATION OF MARTIAL LAW?
No. The Constitution allows a declaration of martial law only in cases of:
- invasion when public safety requires it; or
- rebellion when public safety requires it.
There is no such situation or necessity. Any arbitrary governmental order, measure or issuance that is tantamount to an exercise of martial law may be legitimately open to legal challenge.
Q3: CAN CURFEW BE IMPOSED IN CERTAIN AREAS?
No, unless there is a:
- valid resolution by the concerned provincial board within its territorial coverage; or
- valid ordinance by the city or municipal council within their territorial coverage;
- valid executive issuance by the President in defined territories or specific areas; or
- valid law passed by Congress in defined territories or specific areas.
The LGU heads, MMDA, PNP, AFP are not empowered in defined territories or specific areas or have the legal authority to impose curfews. They can generally only enforce valid curfews imposed by the proper authorities above.
Q4: CAN MY RIGHT TO TRAVEL BE CURTAILED OR LIMITED?
As a rule No. But it may be limited if it is really and legitimately for the interest of national security, public safety or public health, but such limitation must be provided by law.
Checkpoints under the present extraordinary circumstances must primarily be for health, medical and public welfare reasons and must at all times respect the dignity and rights of a person.
Inspection of vehicles should remain visual, production of required documents routinary, and frisking of individuals must still be based on probable cause.
Our prevailing legal opinion is that “quarantine passes” and masterlists issued by barangays or villages may – under the present extraordinary circumstances – be concededly permissible but it should be regulatory and not punitive, i.e. no one should be arrested or detained for its misuse or non-compliance, unless there is a valid law, city ordinance or provincial board resolution penalizing such act or omission.
Also, such “quarantine passes” and masterlists for the specific purpose of accessing basic necessities, food and essential health services must be voluntary, reasonable, necessary and practical. They must not impose unnecessary requirements, require any other information, or be used for any other purpose.
Q5: CAN I BE ARRESTED WITHOUT A WARRANT DURING THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE ENHANCED COMMUNITY QUARANTINE?
No, except and only in the following instances:
- when you are caught in flagrante delicto or in the act of committing or attempting to commit a crime;
- during a hot pursuit, or when a crime has just been committed and the police or law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge that you have committed such crime; or
- if you are a prisoner or a person deprived of liberty who escaped prison or detention facility or escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another.
Q6: IF I AM ARRESTED, WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS?
- You have the right to be informed of your right to remain silent and
- You have the right to have competent and independent counsel preferably of your own choice. If you cannot afford the services of counsel, you must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived (given up) except in writing and in the presence of counsel.
- No (a) torture, (b) force, (c) violence, (d) threat, (e) intimidation, or (f) any other means which vitiate (undermine or prejudice) the free will shall be used against you.
- (i) Secret detention places, (ii) solitary, incommunicado, or (iii) other similar forms of detention are prohibited.
- You are entitled to the right to confer with your lawyer at all times, as well as the right to be visited by the following:
- any member of your immediate family,
- any medical doctor;
- priest or religious minister chosen by you or by any member of your immediate family or by your counsel;
- any national non-governmental organization duly accredited by the Commission on Human Rights; or
- any international non-governmental organization duly accredited by the Office of the President.
6. No cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment nor involuntary servitude or slavery may be imposed as a consequence of an arrest.
The public must not be regarded as enemies or treated in an inhumane manner.
Q7: WHAT CASES CAN I FILE IF I WAS NOT ACCORDED MY RIGHTS?
You can charge your arresting/detaining policemen, military or others effecting your arrest with, among other criminal, civil and administrative suits, violation of R.A. 7438 (An Act Defining Certain Rights of Person Arrested, Detained or Under Custodial Investigation as Well as the duties of Arresting, Detaining and Investigating Officers, and Providing Penalties Thereof).
Q8: WILL THE NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY SUSPEND THE MAXIMUM PERIODS OF DETENTION OF ARRESTED PERSONS WITHOUT CHAGRES BEING FILED?
No. Persons validly arrested without warrants of arrest have to be charged within the periods fixed under Art. 125 of the Revised Penal Code (which range from 12, 18 or 36 hours maximum, depending on the imposable penalty of the crime charged). If no charge is made beyond these periods, the detention becomes illegal and you should be released.
Q9: CAN I BE ARRESTED AND FACE CHARGES FOR RESISTING OR DISOBEYING ENFORCERS OF THE QUARANTINE?
Only if you willfully disobeyed lawful orders of law enforcers. This does not stop or prevent you from demanding explanation or clarification from, and arguing with, the police or other law enforcers, and asserting your rights, or validly acting in self-defense, defense of a relative or defense of a stranger as recognized by our criminal laws.
Q10: WHAT IS THE PENALTY THAT I MAY FACE?
Resistance or disobedience to a lawful order of law enforcers who are validly exercising their authority is chargeable under Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code and is punishable by a fine not exceeding P100,000 and imprisonment of up to six (6) months.
If violence or serious intimidation is employed to resist or disobey persons in authority or their agents, the crime is direct assault under Article 148 of the Revised Penal Code, which is punishable by six (6) months to six (6) years in prison and a fine not exceeding P200,000.
Q11: IS IT TRUE THAT UNDER RA 11332 OR THE MANDATORY REPORTING OF NOTIFIABLE DISEASES AND HEALTH EVENTS OF PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERN ACT, NON-COOPERATION OF PERSONS AFFECTED BY THE COVID-19 IS A CRIME?
Under Section 9(e) of RA 11332, non-cooperation of the person or entities identified as having the notifiable disease, or affected by the health event of public concern is a prohibited act. This is punishable with a fine of not less than P20,000 but not more than P50,000 and/or imprisonment of not less than one (1) month but not more than six (6) months.
However, it is our opinion that this crime of ‘non-cooperation’ is not sufficiently defined in the law. The penal provision is so vague that it is open to interpretation and may give way to abuse by law enforcement authorities. It is open to legal challenge.
The prohibited act should be limited to non-disclosure of a notifiable disease by the infected person, or by any person having knowledge thereof. Thus, it cannot be used for violation of regular quarantine rules.
Q12: CAN I BE ARRESTED, CHARGED AND CONVICTED OF A CRIME FOR AN ACT OR OMISSION WHICH WAS NOT PUNISHABLE BY A SPECIFIC LAW AT THE TIME IT WAS COMMITTED OR OMITTED?
NO. There is no crime unless there is a law that specifically defines it as such and penalizes it. And such law can only be applied to acts or omissions after it becomes law and not to acts or omissions before such law becomes a law.
Q13: ARE THE COURTS STILL OPEN?
Yes. But in view of the rising cases of COVID-19 infection in the country, all courts nationwide have drastically reduced operations, maintaining skeletal staff to act on urgent matters. Only designated courts remain open.
Q14: WHAT ARE THE CURRENT OPERATING HOURS OF COURTS?
They are supposedly currently open Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm only.
Q15: ARE THE COURTS STILL HOLDING HEARINGS?
All hearings are suspended during the effectivity of the enhanced community quarantine except those relating to urgent matters.
Q16: I AM FACING A CHARGE FOR A BAILABLE CRIME. CAN I STILL POST BAIL?
Yes. Posting bail is considered an urgent matter as it affects one’s liberty.
Q17: WHAT OTHER URGENT MATTERS CAN THE COURTS CONTINUE TO HEAR AND ACT ON?
Matters relating to:
- habeas corpus,
- promulgation of judgments of acquittals,
- reliefs for those who may be arrested and detained during this period, and
- other related actions that may be filed in relation to measures imposed at the local or national levels to address the declared health emergency.
Q18: I HAVE A HEARING SCHEDULED IN A TRIAL COURT BUT IT CONCERNS A NON-URGENT MATTER. WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THIS HEARING?
It will be rescheduled.
Q19: UNTIL WHEN WILL COURTS CONTINUE TO REDUCE OPERATIONS AND SUSPEND WORK AND HEARINGS?
So far, the Supreme Court has announced that this setup will go on until April 12, 2020.
Q20: WHAT HAPPENS TO DEADLINES DUE TO BE FILED IN COURTS DURING THE QUARANTINE PERIOD?
The filing of petitions and appeals, complaints, motions, pleadings, and other court submissions that fall due from March 15, 2020 to April 15, 2020 is extended for 30 calendar days to be counted from April 16, 2020.
But those who prefer to file them anyway on or before the deadline may do so by fax or by electronic means, if available.
Q21: WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF THE QUARANTINE ON THE CONDUCT OF INQUESTS AND PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATIONS BY PROSECUTORS (FISCALS)?
The conduct of inquest proceedings (for arrests without warrants) shall continue. But all preliminary investigation hearings during the quarantine period are cancelled and shall be rescheduled after the lifting of the quarantine.
Q22: WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF THE QUARANTINE ON THE FILING OF PETITIONS FOR REVIEW AND OTHER PLEADINGS WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE?
The running of the period for filing is interrupted during the quarantine period. It will begin to run again after the quarantine is lifted in the province, city or municipality concerned.
Q23: WILL THE QUARANTINE DELAY THE RELEASE OF THE RESULTS OF THE 2019 BAR EXAMINATION?
According to the Supreme Court, work is not suspended in court offices concerned with the release of the 2019 Bar Examinations.#
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References: 1987 Philippine Constitution; Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 31-2020; Section 5, Rule 113 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure; Section 12, Article III, 1987 Philippine Constitution; Revised Penal Code; Republic Act No. 111332 (Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act); Proclamation Order No. 929 s. 2020; Department of Justice Circular No. 008-B