Law is law? DILG urged to go after high-profile ECQ violators amid proposal to arrest beggars

October 12, 2020 - 1:20 PM
Workers begging for money
Construction workers unable to return home are seen begging for food or cash from motorists along Macapagal Blvd. in Pasay City on Monday, May 11, 2020. (The STAR/Geremy Pintolo via Twitter)

Cases of other high-profile quarantine violations surfaced after Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Martin Diño said that street beggars should be arrested by authorities since they could potentially spread coronavirus.

The government official in an online news forum on Sunday encouraged the police, barangay authorities and the Department of Social Welfare and Development to do something about the increasing number of people begging on the streets amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Batas ay batas. Dapat iyan hinuhuli ng mga pulis, dapat dinadala sa DSWD kasi baka hindi mo alam, baka ito na ’yung nagkakalat ng pandemya dahil unang-una, exposed ito,” Diño said, as quoted by reports.

Some of those who were reportedly seen begging on the streets include locally-stranded individuals, jeepney drivers who are not yet authorized to operate and Filipinos who have lost their source of livelihood in the ongoing pandemic.

Diño claimed that police officers and barangay authorities are obliged to round up street beggars and turn them in the custody of the DSWD who are supposed to be responsible for them.

“Wala dapat sila sa lansangan, pandemya tayo ngayon. Walang pinipili ang pandemya,” he said.

“Hindi porke mahirap ka, ikaw ay may lisensiya na kumatok at um-ano sa lahat ng mga ano,” Diño added.

He previously suggested that face mask violators or people who are caught in the public without wearing a face mask and those wearing it improperly be jailed for more than ten days despite concerns on potential congestion.

Peek at other quarantine violators  

Meanwhile, Filipinos opposed Diño’s remarks and questioned why he is targeting ordinary citizens instead of personalities who violated quarantine protocols especially during the height of the strictest lockdown measure.

“Your first thought is to accuse them of the high number of positive cases of COVID-19 in the country and not the desire to help them out in terms of giving food or shelter man lang? Law is law pero nakalimutan issue sa PhilHealth, Sinas, Mocha, Pimentel, and others?” a Twitter user questioned in response to Diño’s remarks.

“‘Batas ay Batas,'” another online user said as he quoted the DILG official and then enumerated some personalities who were supposed to be sanctioned for graver offenses.

“Imelda apparently too old. Koko, ‘pakidisinfect nalang,’ Sinas being promoted, Philhealth 15 billion swept under the rug, do we go on ….?” he wrote.

“‘Batas ay batas’ sana apply niyo rin ‘to kila Sinas, Mocha, etc. Hindi hulihin, dapat tulungan. Sino ba gusto maging homeless/street beggar? Using words na halatang walang puso sa mahihirap, even the delivery of speech,” criticized another Twitter user.

Other online users also pointed out that Di does not have a proof that beggars are spreading COVID-19.

“Diño has ABSOLUTELY NO data/evidence to show that beggars are spreading #COVID19. And we wont have that data because no #MassTestingNowPH! If we do get that data, mga 3-6mos ang delay ng DOH to process so useless din to control the virus,” a Twitter user said.

Last May, subordinates of National Capital Region Police Office chief Police Major General Debold Sinas held a birthday “salubong” or a mañanita for him despite the strict prohibition against social gatherings.

They were seen breaking the quarantine rules such as stringent physical distancing measures and eating at buffet tables which experts believe could trigger transmission of COVID-19.

(Screenshot by Interaksyon)

Despite the incident, which earned global attention, Sinas maintained his post as Metro Manila’s top cop. Administrative charges have been reportedly filed against him but he continues to be on duty.

RELATED: Quarantine violators compared: Debold Sinas’ likely promotion vs foreign officials’ resignation

Sen. Koko Pimentel was also criticized for accompanying his then-pregnant wife to a hospital last March despite waiting for his swab test result which turned out to be positive.

Makati Medical Center Director Saturnino Javier accused Pimentel of violating the mandatory “home quarantine protocol” and potentially putting healthcare workers and patients at risk.

The Department of Justice was then accused of inaction concerning the senator’s quarantine breach. By September, a resolution was submitted to the agency about the issue.

Pimentel said that the complaint against him “is fatally defective” but added in another report that he will “just wait for the DOJ.”

Meanwhile, Deputy administrator Mocha Uson of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration was asked by the public to resign after pictures of her convening with overseas Filipino workers surfaced last April.

OWWA administrator Hans Leo Cacdac came in her defense and said that Uson was asked to remind OFWs to observe quarantine protocols amid reports that some were breaching them.

Law against begging 

Last year, an official of the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) in Zamboanga reminded Filipinos that giving alms to street beggars is against the Marcos-era Anti-Mendicancy Law or Presidential Decree No. 1563.

CSWDO Division Head Uldarico Fabian said that only legitimate organizations or groups with a permit from the City Hall can legally solicit money or donations from people.

He added that the Anti-Mendicancy Law was created to supposedly ease beggars’ dependence on public sympathy and help them become independent from alms with the guidance of legitimate social welfare institutions.