Critics hit DILG proposal to jail face mask policy violators and made suggestions instead

August 21, 2020 - 5:26 PM
Commuter wearing face mask
A ManilaMed staff wears a surgical face mask along the LRT-MRT connecting bridge at EDSA station amid nCoV scare. (Philstar/Deejay Dumlao)

The proposal of Interior Undersecretary Martin Diño to imprison people caught without a face mask and those wearing it improperly was met with concerns and questions by some Filipinos online.

Diño in a radio interview said that it was “high time” the law should be strictly implemented, starting from the barangay level.

“‘Yung isa pang mungkahi namin na kapag nahuli ka ng may face mask ka nga, nakababa naman, naka-labas ang ilong mo, nakalabas ang bibig mo, eh 15 days ang kulong mo,” he said.

“Pagka-naman, halimbawa, talagang wala kang face mask, eh, 30 days. So ito ‘yung mga bagay na dapat pagkasunduan at agad-agad, i-implement natin,” Diño added.

He mentioned that they will be stricter in implementing the face mask policy since it has been five months after the government first placed the Philippines in community quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Basta nasa labas sila, nahuli ka ng nasa labas ng tahanan mo, kahit nasa harap ka lang ng bahay mo, kapag tumungtong ka ng sidewalk, tumungtong ka ng kalsada, naabutan ka ng ating mga tanod, ng ating kapulisan, ikaw ay aarestuhin, dalhin sa barangay hall o dalhin sa prisinto para mai-dokumento ‘yung kaukulan ng kaso,” Diño said.

Last month, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said that there are new rules being proposed to local government units which include longer jail time for face mask violators and penalty fees worth P1,000 to P5,000.

‘Just give them face masks’ 

Meanwhile, Diño’s suggestion was not welcomed by some Filipinos who shared their concerns on the proposed 30-day jail time for face mask violators.

Physician Jairus Cabajar commented that the government can just “give them face masks” instead of being imprisoned for almost a month.

His remarks earned 5,500 retweets and 25,700 likes as of this writing.

Cabajar’s sentiment was echoed by another Twitter user who suggested that the violators be given “free” face masks.

“Bakit ba parang hirap kayo mag-isip?” the online user wrote.

Another Twitter user likewise shared her apprehension about the supposed increased risk of catching COVID-19 in a “cramped” jail cell.

A Filipino, meanwhile, took note of the interior department’s head and recalled his military background, claiming that “military solutions treat victims as an enemy of the State.”

Año is a retired general of the Philippine Army known for being a seasoned combat and intelligence officer.

The same observation was made by Philip Jamilla of Karapatan who commented that the government would “rather spend resources on repression than providing people’s needs.”

The national government first mandated the wearing of face masks in the public in April under areas in the stricter enhanced community quarantine.

Local government units eventually created ordinances requiring its residents to wear one in public in a bid to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 among their communities.

Since then, there have been reports of people figuring in altercations with the authorities over the policy.

Others have been lauded for treating violators without force, such as a Philippine Army reservist and a trainee of the Philippine National Police.

Last week, the government through the health department launched a campaign wherein free washable face masks were handed out to vulnerable sectors, including the less privileged.

Reports noted that about 20,000 non-medical grade washable and reusable face masks were initially given to the Rizal Province.

The initiative was a response to President Rodrigo Duterte‘s directive to give free face masks to every Filipino household.

Face masks, according to experts, are critical in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 which is primarily spread through respiratory droplets and in the air on closed indoor settings.

Researchers led by a Texas A&M University professor believe that wearing a face mask in public “corresponds to the most effective means to prevent inter-human transmission.”

“Our study establishes very clearly that using a face mask is not only useful to prevent infected coughing droplets from reaching uninfected persons, but is also crucial for these uninfected persons to avoid breathing the minute atmospheric particles (aerosols) that infected people emit when talking and that can remain in the atmosphere tens of minutes and can travel tens of feet,” Mario Molina said, as quoted by Science Daily.