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31 May 2020

To mitigate the spread and impact of the COVID 19 virus, the government acted decisively and placed Luzon under severe quarantine measures starting March 17, 2020. In line with ensuing directives on the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila, NCRPO chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas declared that – “We will arrest those who will not follow the guidelines”.

The restrictions under the IATF guidelines have affected millions, in terms of livelihood and freedom of movement. The impact has been much greater on families living near or below the poverty line, despite government’s extension of financial aid. Additionally, the seeming confusion and different interpretations of rules led to numerous quarantine violations.

From March 17 to April 17, almost 30,000 violators had been arrested; 6,616 underwent inquest while 23,016 cases were for filing. The number was reported to have reached nearly 41,000 by May 1. Many of those arrested suffered detention, costs, humiliation, and inconveniences, and some endured unwarranted jailtime when unopened courts or government offices, or even limited bank branches, could not process their bail in a timely manner.

Above happened even with the Supreme Court’s recently issued administrative circulars that reduce bail and allow recognizance as among the means of releasing the accused. The compounding economic hardships and unfamiliarity with new rules resulted in many people languishing in detention centers for many days, thus risking exposure to the virus in overcrowded facilities.

The private sector strongly supports the “whole-of-government, whole-of-society” effort to respond and recover from the social and economic adversities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Together with the international community, we have demonstrated utmost cooperation, and enjoined our own officers and employees to abide by the quarantine rules of the IATF.

We are therefore greatly disappointed – even appalled and dismayed – about news reports of  public officials violating with impunity the IATF and DOH protocols intended to protect public health.

As the country rides this tide of uncertainty, we trust that our leaders at the national and local levels, will  demonstrate beyond doubt, the highest standards in observing and enforcing the rule of law, and serve as role models in discipline and moral ascendancy. Upholding the law and ensuring faith in our justice system  stand as the bedrock of our democracy, and will enable the economy to survive and recover from these most trying times. The sacrifice of our people deserves nothing less.

American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines

Financial Executives of the Philippines

Institute of Corporate Directors

Institute for Solidarity in Asia, Inc.

Judicial Reform Initiative

Management Association of the Philippines

Makati Business Club