Virac MTC junks case vs. alleged quarantine violator

For lack of basis, the criminal case for alleged violation of quarantine against a resident of Virac has been dismissed by the Municipal Trial Court.

In her two-page order rendered Mar. 14, 2022, Virac MTC Presiding Judge Myra S. Mangente dismissed outright the case against Josefina Reyes “for being patently without basis or merit” pursuant to Section 12(a) of the 1991 Revised Rule on Summary Procedure.

It may be recalled that Concepcion barangay captain Anthony Arcilla filed the complaint against the operation manager of Excel Care Diagnostic & Wellness Center and a resident of Calatagan Proper, for alleged violation of Section 9(e) of Republic Act 11332, otherwise known as the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act of 2018.

Arcilla, who is running for a seat in the Sangguniang Bayan, claimed that at around 9:30 AM of Jan. 24, 2022, the accused attended a special session in Concepcion regarding the illegal dumping of hazardous medical waste at the shoreline.

He claimed that Reyes was there despite knowing that she was under quarantine and awaiting her swab test result, which was later found to be positive for COVID-19, to the damage and prejudice of the complainant, the barangay council and the public.

Reyes had told the council that she was in quarantine so she was not able to personally supervise the disposal of the medical wastes.

She made no mention of her pending swab test result, Arcilla stated, with the positive result leading to the mandatory isolation of the barangay council and causing “so much anxiety and directly affecting their daily earnings as well as their services as barangay officials.

The members of the council – Jena Arcilla, Elmer Miguel, Eva Sarmiento, Ronnel Tuplano, Noli Vargas, Leonard Rioja Jr., Roxanne Vargas and Patrick Pantino – also executed a similar joint affidavit and agreed with the chairman Arcilla that Reyes should be prosecuted for failing to cooperate or submit to health authorities.

In Judge Mangente’s order, the Court noted that based on the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 11332, for Reyes to be held liable for “non-cooperation” for violation of quarantine or stay-at-home order issued by public health authorities, she must have been issued such an order to compulsorily confine inside a facility or in her residence and she failed to comply with the order.

Examining the records, the Court said it found no evidence whatsoever that Reyes was issued a quarantine/isolation order.

While Chairman Arcilla claimed that the accused admitted she was on quarantine during the special session, there was no such admission from Reyes in the Minutes of the 2nd Special Session and that it was Dr. Emmanuel Guerrero who informed the council, to wit: “To be honest with you, si Ma’am Jo, galing pa lang ho yan ng quarantine.”

“To rely on this statement is problematic,” the Court stressed, as it was not an admission on the part of Reyes that she was under quarantine and that the statement did not mean she was currently undergoing quarantine at the time of the session.

The best evidence would have been the quarantine/isolation order issued by Virac RHU, it pointed out, but no such document was attached by the complainant.

The failure of the complainant to present the specific order or directive issued by the RHU to Reyes is fatal to the case, Judge Mangente emphasized.

At the very least, the complainant should have cited the particular Covid-19 IATF issuance or DOH rule which the accused violated at the time of the meeting that will constitute “non-cooperation” under RA 11332, she added.

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