Legazpi City resident bucks proposed P1K fine from barangay for not registering visitors staying for 24 hours

September 25, 2017 - 4:46 PM
Mayor Volcano, Legazpi City
Mayon Volcano is a popular tourist draw, attracting visitors from all over to Legazpi City. Photograph from Legazpi City tourism bureau.

A Legazpi City resident is opposing a P1,000 per day penalty proposed by her barangay if residents do not abide by the Office of the Mayor’s Executive Order No. 36-2017, which requires persons staying at another barangay for 24 hours or more to register his or her name, purpose, and duration of stay at the barangay hall.

A local government official has stressed that the municipal EO does not violate residents’ privacy, as well as their liberty of abode and trave

EO No. 36-2017, or “An Executive Order Prescribing Guidelines for the Inter-Barangay Travel Registration Mechanism” reasons that the registration of visitors is needed to achieve a crime- and drug-free country, and to protect barangays from drug users and pushers, as well as from criminals and other “unwanted personalities”.

In a phone interview with InterAksyon, tour operator Jessica Imperial said their barangay captain talked to her and her neighbors on Thursday about the EO, mentioning that a nearby motel should comply and proposing that there should be a penalty of P1,000 so that the EO would have “teeth”.

“You cannot make a penalty just like that,” Imperial said. “Sinong hindi aalma doon (Who wouldn’t oppose it)?”

Barangays should have uniform rules, she added. She also disagreed with the thinking that those who weren’t doing anything wrong had no reason to resist the penalty, and pointed out that their barangay hall was relatively far, meaning they would have to take a tricycle every time they had a visitor over for 24 hours or more.

“Why is this a concern for me? Because there would be room for abuse,” Imperial said. “I feel that my rights are being curtailed.”

How would the authorities know that the visitor had been staying in the resident’s home for 24 hours already?

“Ano, kakatukin ka nila sa bahay mo, ‘Hoy, may bisita ka, 24 hours na ‘yung bisita mo!’ Sasabihin mo, ‘Ay hindi, wala akong bisita.’ So what are they going to do? Are they going to enter your house and force you? ‘Ito ‘yung bisita mo, andito sa kwarto mo, ayan, tinatago mo sa cabinet, o!’” she asked.

(“Are they going to knock on your door, saying, ‘Hey, you have a visitor, and your visitor has been there for 24 hours already!’ And you say, ‘No, I don’t have a visitor.’ So what are they gonna do? Are they gonna enter your house and force you? ‘Here’s your visitor, in your room, there, hiding in your cabinet!'”)

“I may sound exaggerating, but, hey, these things can be cause for abuse. Kasi paano kung may komisyon ‘yung humuhuli (What if the enforcer has a commission to earn)? Iisipin nila, ‘May P1,000 ako kada isang huli’ (They’ll think, ‘I have P1,000 per apprehension’),” she added.

“I’m already 40 years old and this is the first time I’ve heard of this,” Imperial said, noting that she had lived in different cities in Metro Manila, as well, and had never experienced anything similar to it. She added that she had asked people who lived through Marcos-era Martial Law if they were asked to register their visitors as well, and was told that they were not.

She stressed that one’s right to privacy, right to travel, and liberty of abode are all guaranteed by Article III of the 1987 Constitution.

Nevertheless, Imperial said, she was not angry with the barangay captain, as he has no choice but to follow the EO. But, she said, they might need a crash course on lawmaking, as they shouldn’t be imposing penalties just because they wanted to.

As for Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, she believed he had good intentions, but it was possible that his legal advisers had not studied the repercussions of the EO properly.

Legazpi inter-barangay visitors registration E.O.
The inter-barangay visitors registration E.O.

In a Facebook post, Imperial suggested other ways to make their community safe: “One is the bayanihan system where we look out for each other. If there are suspicious-looking people in your community, then call 911 or a hotline number to inform the barangay.”

Also, she said that the barangay can assign roving tanods 24/7 for the residents’ security… “In subdivisions, guards ask for the ID of each visitor and also ask them what house they are going to visit. In exclusive subdivisions in Manila, guards even check first with the homeowner if they will allow the visitors to enter. Can we do this instead?”

Meanwhile, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers secretary-general Atty. Edre Olalia called the EO “another ill-advised Big Brother scheme under the guise of order but without peace.”

“It is in open violation not only of the fundamental right to privacy but also freedom to travel and liberty of abode. Indeed it is open to question of constitutionality. The problem really is that national and local government officials and public officers take their cue and are emboldened by the draconian gimmicks and fascist fantasies of the national leadership,” he said. “(President Rodrigo) Duterte has sent the signal that brazen and orchestrated violations of individual rights is the new normal and you can let it slide in the name of the fight against criminality and drugs.”

In seeking the side of the LGU, InterAksyon was referred by a staff member of the Office of the Mayor to an Atty. Belgica from its legal office.

In reply to InterAksyon’s text, Belgica said that the LGU’s stand was in a Facebook post he/she wrote. Asked for his/her Facebook account, Belgica didn’t reply, nor did he/she answer InterAksyon’s calls.

The Facebook post is presumably that of Mayette Belgica-Cledera, which reads:

“The Mayor’s Executive Order merely requires barangays to keep a record of all non-residents who will stay in their barangay for more than 24 hours… nothing more. This is not violative of one’s liberty of abode and travel since it does not prohibit traveling from one barangay to another. Neither is it a violation of one’s privacy. All you have to give is your name. This is but akin to writing your name in the logbook before you enter government offices, or private subdivisions, or hotels, or motels, etcetera. This is not at all indicative of martial law, as some people already imply. So I hope we will not make a big issue out of this…but really, if you find the EO unconstitutional, then we welcome challenge before the proper forum. We will abide if there will be a court pronouncement to that effect. Until then, we will highly appreciate it if people will not overreact. Thank you.”

Atty. Bart Rayco of NUPL-Albay added that the Legazpi City Mayor “overreached jumping in his executive order under the pretext of maintaining peace and order and preventing criminality.”

On the registration of visitors, he said, “signing and logging in when one visits government offices is an off-beam comparison. It is certainly not similar to a visit to a relative or friend based on a very plain reason: the first is official business while the second is private.”