by Fernan A. Gianan
A week after the spate of violations of the “no travel” policy and the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Catanduanes has yet to file a single criminal complaint against the alleged violators despite their reported serious intent to do so.
Based on reports gathered by the Tribune, there are at least 14 persons who sneaked into the island from Albay and Camarines Sur from April 5 to 12 despite a ban on such travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These include the Quezon City-based domestic helper who was smuggled in by her cargo truck driver husband as well as the two Napocor employees who were fetched from Albay by three men from Bato town. Not included are the police and Coast Guard personnel who are regularly going to and from Albay using their mission orders and have not been placed on quarantine.
According to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor, the inquest cases filed by the police since March 16, 2020 do not relate to violations of the ECQ.
The cases the prosecution office received involve murder, violation of Republic Act 10591 (Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunitions), frustrated homicide, illegal cockfighting, violations of Sections 5 and 11 of RA 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2003), and two cases for the sale of overpriced alcohol.
The latter twin cases refer to the businessman in San Pablo, Virac, and two online sellers in Rawis who were caught in separate entrapment operations for hawking overpriced alcohol on social media.
Also facing charges are the 484 ECQ violators, including 81 “rescued” minors, who were arrested by the police in the 11 towns as of April 17, 2020.
The prosecution office said their violation is related to RA 11469, the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, although the law itself provides for a penalty of imprisonment for two (2) months only or a fine of at least P10,000.00 but not more than P1 million, or both at the discretion of the Court.
Either the local police is waiting for the ECQ to be lifted before filing the cases with the prosecution or their investigation units are too busy manning the quarantine control checkpoints.
Incidentally, among the offenses mentioned in Section 6 of RA 11469 is “(h) Impeding access to roads, streets and bridges; putting-up prohibited encroachments or obstacles; and maintenance of illegal constructions in public places that have been ordered to be removed.”
Not a few barangays in Virac, and probably in other towns here, have barricaded their streets, leaving only two of them open to allow access to the adjoining barangay or to national or provincial roads.
Thus, residents have to navigate around the barangay road network and either walk a long way or spend additional fuel to exit the area.
This practice is not only inconvenient and costly but also dangerous, especially when an emergency arises. What if someone suffers a heart attack and it takes some more minutes to get him to the hospital? What if a fire breaks out and the barricades hinder responding fire trucks from traveling to the scene as quickly as possible?
Another violation, this time of the Inter-Agency Task Force’s guideline on quarantine passes, is the recently policy “approved” by the Liga ng mga Barangay that the quarantine pass should be limited to only 10 percent of each barangay’s households, with the holder allowed only three hours to complete his task.
This has resulted in instances of queues in barangay halls, violating the social distancing guidelines, and in many cases, the holder having a difficult time securing essential items. For example, since local banks are open only for about three to four hours, it takes one roughly more than an hour to make a withdrawal. Go to the Mercury Drugstore branch at Center Mall and it will take you probably the same time to buy needed medicines, leaving you less than two hours to go to the market and return to your barangay.
PBM Edwin Tanael was correct in pointing out the excessive quarantine regulations being imposed in some barangays and in asking the DILG to ascertain whether these are still in accordance with the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act and existing IATF guidelines.
Last week, the Catanduanes police appealed to its media partners not to post mugshots of arrested persons, particularly those who were apprehended in connection with enhanced community quarantine. It asked the media to at least cover the faces or blur the pictures to protect the rights of those in the mugshots.
For some time now, some members of the media has been posting on their social media accounts the mugshots sent by unit commanders of some municipal police stations.
The local police’s appeal was apparently prompted by the case of a public school teacher who felt humiliated by the posting of her mugshot after her arrest on alleged disobedience committed against barangay tanods in Virac.
Following her arrest, she sought help from a lawyer, who has determined that the evidence on record did not clearly identify her alleged crime. The teacher also asked the police to identify who among its personnel authorized and actually made the posting of her arrest photo.
There is no truth to the claim that Republic Act 8292, the Higher Education Modernization Act, has been superseded by Republic Act 10229, which converted the former Catanduanes State Colleges into the Catanduanes State University (CSU).
This is as far as the power of the governing board on the extension of the term of the university president beyond the age of retirement but not beyond the age of 70 is concerned, which is the same, word for word, in both laws.
In fact, Section 23 of RA 10229 provides that “(T)he provisions of Republic Act No. 8292, otherwise known as the “Higher Education Modernization Act of 1997″, shall be an integral part of this Act and shall serve as part of the Governing Charter of the University.”
Remember Kumander Dante, who called up owners of business establishments and certain professionals in Virac and asked for a financial donation for the New People’s Army?
The same modus operandi, which the Catanduanes police has branded as extortion, has surfaced in faraway Bataan province where a rice producer received a call from the very same Kumander Dante using the same cellphone number.
The caller said their family was under surveillance and that they should give the alleged rebel group 20 cavans of rice. It seems the scam has gone nationwide as proven by the Bataan resident who contacted the Tribune after “Googling” the cellphone number and reading the Tribune article.
THE FALLEN. There was this old priest who got sick of all the people in his parish who kept confessing to adultery. One Sunday, in the pulpit, he said, “If I hear one more person confess to adultery, I’ll quit!” Well, everyone liked him, so they came up with a code word. Someone who had committed adultery would say they had “fallen”.
This seemed to satisfy the old priest and things went well, until the priest died at a ripe old age. About a week after the new priest arrived, he visited the Mayor of the town and seemed very concerned.
The priest said, “You have to do something about the sidewalks in town. When people come into the confessional, they keep talking about having fallen.”
The Mayor started to laugh, realizing that no-one had told the new priest about the code word.
Before the mayor could explain, the priest shook an accusing finger at the mayor and said, “I don’t know what you’re laughing about. Your wife fell three times this week.”