MANILA – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Wednesday directed local government units (LGUs) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to strictly enforce the closure of non-essential business establishments while the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is still being implemented until April 30 in Luzon amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

“Make sure that business establishments that are not allowed to operate under IATF guidelines remain closed. The ECQ is still in full force and effect. There is no partial lifting whatsoever. Our country will heal as one if and only the government, the private sector, and the people stick to the strict enforcement of ECQ,” DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said in a news release.

Several reports, he said, have reached the DILG regarding the opening of some non-essential commercial establishments in some localities.

In DILG Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 2020-062, LGUs are enjoined to ensure the closure of business establishments, except those providing or manufacturing basic necessities such as food, medicine, water, banking, and remittance centers, power, energy, telecommunication, and the like. In all such establishments allowed to operate, the LGUs must monitor to ensure the operation of a skeletal workforce only, as well as strict social distancing measures.

“If there is resistance or disobedience to authorities, the PNP has the authority to make arrests. Nasa gitna tayo ng (We are in a) state of public health emergency at kalamidad (and calamity). Ang mga pasaway ay maaaring arestuhin sa paglabag as (Offenders can be arrested for violation) Article 151 ng Revised Penal Code (RPC). The law punishes resistance and disobedience to a person in authority or the agents of such person,” he said.

The penalty for violating Article 151 of the RPC is arresto mayor, or imprisonment of one month and one day to six months, and a fine not exceeding PHP100,000.

The Department of Justice has also earlier announced that any violation during the ECQ may also be punishable under Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.

Among the prohibited acts under RA 11332 is non-cooperation of persons and entities that should report and/or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern. If found guilty, they face a penalty of not more than six months imprisonment or a fine of not more than PHP50,000.

“Instead of fighting with authorities, let us all cooperate with the ECQ. That is your only contribution. Think of our front-liners who put their lives on the line while your simple but important role in this crisis is to comply with the ECQ. Country first before business. Let us all exercise discipline for us to be able to overcome this challenge,” Año said.

He also clarified that police officers and the armed forces are protectors of public safety as well as public health.

He said that non-essential businesses that are breaking the ECQ and opening their stores would jeopardize the efforts of the government and will waste all the gains “we have so far achieved”.

Economic concerns

DILG spokesperson Undersecretary Jonathan E. Malaya said the agency is actively working with the members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) in studying how to balance the economic concerns and interests with the imposition of the ECQ.

“The government is taking into account the impact of the ECQ on our national and local economies. The IATF is carefully studying the next steps but one thing for sure is that we have to exercise caution and prudence regarding the partial lifting of the ECQ after April 30. We are optimistic but we must always base our recommendations to the President on scientific evidence,” he said.

The DILG, he said, commends the generosity of the private sector in contributing to the efforts of the government through their donations and social projects.

“It is really the time to think of sharing, instead of ‘business as usual’,” he said. (PR)A

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