Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Atty. Salvador Panelo on Saturday said that violators of mass gatherings are liable under Revised Penal Code and can be charged in court.
In his online program “Counterpoint”, Panelo was referring to the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to arrest individuals who continue to defy the government after receiving reports of a pool party and drinking session in Nagkaisang Nayon, Quezon City. At least 55 residents tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) following the superspreader event.
“President Duterte asked for my opinion last Wednesday on the legality of ordering the arrest of individuals involved in mass gathering. I told him that there is no need for a new law since they can be charged for crimes under the Revised Penal Code,” Panelo said.
Panelo added that the organizer of the superspreader event can be charged with reckless imprudence, depending on the gravity of the effect of the mass gathering.
“It will depend on the violation. For example, you attended, a picnic, swimming party, or dinner and was attended by many people and if it is proven that you cause the spread of the virus, you can be charged for reckless imprudence,” according to Panelo.
“It could range from less physical injury, serious physical injury, homicide, and even multiple homicides but it has an imprisonment clause, contrary to claims of some that there is no criminal offense,” Panelo added.
He said that Duterte adopted his legal position on the matter.
“President Duterte is tired of reminding the public of the need to follow the health protocols. He is more concerned about the safety of the majority of Filipinos,” Panelo said.
Duterte has also warned to order the arrest of barangay captains who will fail to strictly implement the health protocols.
Panelo assured that legal processes will be followed once a person is arrested for violation of mass gathering.
“If you are arrested, you will be charged and authorities should ensure that there is enough evidence to prove your guilt,” he explained.
At the same time, Panelo backed the warning issued by Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año who said that barangay captains who fail to prevent mass gatherings should resign.
“Secretary Año said barangay captains who cannot perform their duties should leave their post and he will find substitutes for them. Barangay captains should not use an excuse that his area of jurisdiction is big. The local executives should implement a system to monitor these violations,” he noted.
Panelo said the public should not waste the achievement of the government in bringing down the cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.
“As we can see, the country’s situation has improved after the implementation of lockdowns in the NCR Bubble plus. If we continue to violate health protocols, it is possible we will return to stricter community quarantine,” he said.
Aside from the pool party in Quezon City, at least 16 individuals who joined a mass gathering at Gubat sa Cuidad in Caloocan City tested positive for Covid-19).
While barangay officials are also facing charges after a picnic was held at the Bakas River in Barangay Matictic, Norzagaray, Bulacan on 23 May 2021, in violation of IATF health protocols and local ordinances.
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