Local chief executives will be slapped with criminal or administrative cases if they fail to prohibit mass gatherings that may become COVID-19 super spreader events, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año warned Sunday.
In Caloocan City, Mayor Oscar Malapitan ordered the closure of the Gubat sa Ciudad resort that was found to be illegally operating despite existing protocols barring mass gatherings under the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine.
Malapitan said the owners of the resort, the leaders of Barangay 171 where the resort is located and all the guests of the resort will be slapped with charges for violating social distancing and health protocols.
“The full force of the law will be meted on the owner and operator of the resort, including those who were swimming, and the leaders of the barangay who appear to have been remiss in their duties,” the mayor said in a Facebook post.
Malapitan also ordered the cancelation of the resort's business permit. Mass contact tracing, close monitoring and testing will also be done for all the individuals who celebrated Mother's Day inside the resort yesterday.
Caloocan is part of the NCR Plus bubble that is under MECQ until May 14. Resorts are not allowed to operate under MECQ.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier directed mayors and barangay captains to take the lead in enforcing regulations on social distancing and health protocols.
“An administrative complaint or a criminal case may be filed against negligent local chief executives. The DILG does not want the situation to come to this, that is why we fervently hope the LGUs can enforce policies on mass gatherings based on the quarantine classification of their area,” Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said.
Duterte warned mayors and barangay captains they will be held accountable for any failure to implement laws or regulations related to the government's COVID-19 response.
"Everytime I see people violating the law, I would just say to whoever is seated next to me, 'See, tomorrow there will be a spike again.’ And true enough. And it will never be an ending story until all Filipinos are vaccinated. There will always be a rise and maybe exponential surge of COVID if you do not follow the laws," Duterte said.
"It is a violation of the law and if you do not enforce the law, there is a dereliction of duty which is punishable under the Revised Penal Code. So the DILG can proceed against you for not doing your duty as mayor or as a barangay captain,” the President added.
Philippine National Police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the PNP, in coordination with LGUs, is now preparing detention cells for those who will violate minimum health standards, including not wearing or improperly wearing face masks.
“One of the concerns that need to be addressed is the availability of our detention cells. We know that even before the President's directive, we have a lack of facilities so we need to prepare for this,” Eleazar said in a statement Sunday.
“Let's coordinate with local officials and the barangay to know which areas we can use as detention facilities for violators,” he added.
Año on Friday said individuals who will refuse to comply with the directive to wear a face mask may be detained for a maximum of 12 hours.
Malacañang on Thursday said it was valid for cops to carry out warrantless arrests against health protocol violators.
“We have an ordinance that paves the way for the outright apprehension, warrantless arrest (because) a crime was committed in the presence and with the full personal knowledge of the police officer,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
Citing Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, Roque said a health protocol violator can be detained within the period of 12 hours for crimes or offenses punishable by light penalties.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also defended Duterte’s order to arrest and detain persons who would be caught not wearing face masks properly in public places, which health authorities said have contributed to the surge in the number of COVID-19 infections in the country.
But the Commission on Human Rights warned the directive could lead to “excessive discretion and abuse” of authorities.