THE Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday defended the apprehension of taxi drivers and the impoundment of their vehicles by local authorities, saying that it is in line with the guidelines on the enhanced community quarantine being imposed by the government in the entire Luzon main island to stop the spread of the Covid-19.
DOJ spokesman Undersecretary Markk Perete said under the guidelines on the enhanced community quarantine, mass transportation facilities are suspended until April 12.
“The suspension is meant to minimize mobility and prevent mass transmission of the disease. Those who insist on operating these facilities and disobey orders from law enforcers to desist from further operations may be held to account under Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code, among others,” Perete said.
Perete also expressed support to the PNP’s move to either suspend, or revoke, the permit, or franchise, of the operators of public-utility vehicles (PUV) who will be caught violating President Duterte’s order.
“Remember in the hand of an operator, a franchise to operate is a privilege saddled with conditions, among them compliance with lawful orders of the State,” Perete stressed.
Thus, drivers and operators of the rules on enhanced quarantine are facing both criminal and administrative charges, he added.
“Action against the franchise becomes important since operators may force their drivers to continue plying routes. The possible cancellation, etc. of the franchise could deter operators from doing so,” Perete explained.
Police officers will apprehend disobedient drivers and, if necessary, impound their PUVs for operating despite the order suspending all public transport modes during the enhanced community quarantine, the Philippine National Police (PNP) warned Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Perete reiterated that the enhanced community quarantine should not be construed as a curtailment of a person’s right to mobility. However, he said, “such an individual’s right yields to the safety of the community at large.”
Thus, he said, resistance and disobedience to a person in authority, or the agents of such person, including violation or evasion of quarantine is punishable under Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
The penalty for violating Article 151 of the RPC is arresto mayor and a fine not exceeding P100,000. If committed with acts of violence, the person may be liable for direct assault, and if it is a more serious offense, it is punishable by prison correctional, or a fine of not more than P200,000.
Perete said mere failure to follow the order of the President to stay at home is already tantamount to violation of Section 4 of Article 11332 (An Act Providing Policies and Prescribing Procedures on Surveillance and Response to Notifiable Diseases, Epidemics, and Health Events of Public Health Concern, and Appropriating Funds Therefor, Repealing for the Purpose Act 3573, Otherwise Known as the “Law on Reporting of Communicable Diseases”).
“That is how the law stands, and the reasoning behind it seems pretty straight forward in times of health event of a public concern, an unfounded insistence to act in a way that impedes our collective health can be criminally sanctioned,” the DOJ official added.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) flagged down some 600 taxis at Edsa that defied the temporary suspension of public transport in line with the enhanced community quarantine implemented in the entire Luzon.
This came after PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa ordered the apprehension of the PUV that will continue to operate.
“I told the Highway Patrol, specific, apprehend everyone. If needed, we will impound all of them. Probably later, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board [LTFRB], would really come up with a clear order that all are suspended so that if they are apprehended, it is not only the ticket of the Land Transportation Office [LTO] that they’re going to face,” Gamboa told a television interview.
HPG Director Brig. Gen. Eliseo Cruz said the ban on PUVs is not only in Metro Manila but in the entireLuzon island.
“Nakikita nyo karamihan nahuli natin taxi kasi wala na talaga ang mga bus ipinatupad na ng kanilang mga operator na huwag na silang bumiyahe. Bumiyahe itong mga taxi ang mga dahilan, hindi daw nila alam. [You see, many of those apprehended were taxis because there are no buses anymore. Their operators told them not to operate. These taxis still went on operation because their reason is that they are not aware],” he told reporters during the taxi apprehension.
Cruz said they will get the name of the taxi and operator and take photos of their drivers licenses, plate number, car registration which will be submitted to the LTFRB for appropriate action.
Meantime, the drivers were given a warning and were allowed to go home.
In a news conference in Malacañang on Monday night, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the suspension would include all forms of mass transportation such as public utility buses, jeeps, taxis, transport network vehicle services, among others.
Aside from the ban on public transportation, land, air, and sea travel will also be restricted while the movement of cargoes over the entire Luzon would continue unhampered.
Under the memorandum signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, enhanced community quarantine means that the public will have to strictly remain indoors unless they need to access basic necessities. With PNA
Image credits: PNA/Lloyd Caliwan