Commentary

Under what authority?

The authority of the Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID or IATF-MEID) to impose guidelines on the implementation of community quarantine is by virtue of the President’s Executive Order No. 112, April 30, 2020.

EO 112, on the other hand, referred to Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act as the basis of the President’s “temporary authority to carry out tasks necessary to implement measures to mitigate, if not contain the transmission of COVID-19, and undertake means to prevent the overburdening of the healthcare system”.

Ignoring for the moment the question of whether the President can validly delegate to another body he created (although, admittedly, composed of his alter egos) an authority granted to him by Congress, R.A. No. 11469 ceased to take effect midnight of June 25, 2020, in accordance with Section 9 of said law.

Thus, on Saturday evening, June 27, 2020, when certain people organized a dance in San Nicolas, there can be no more violations of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, an ineffective law by then. Thus, the dancers and organizers cannot be prosecuted under the IATF-MEID guidelines.

Can they be prosecuted under Hon. Labella’s EO 82? But Section 5 of the said EO referred to national laws and local ordinances for the penalties, the Hon. Labella fully knowing that an EO by a city mayor cannot impose penalties not imposed by the legislature or the local sanggunian. Now since R.A. No. 11469 is already ineffective, and, unless I am mistaken, the City Council had not passed an ordinance penalizing mass gathering during this period of quarantine, there is no law under which the San Nicolas dancers and/or organizers can be prosecuted.

This is not a suggestion to fully ignore instructions of our police officers to stay inside. Although it can be argued that any instruction by law enforcers to stay inside is devoid of authority and therefore cannot give rise to a violation of Article 151 (how can you disobey or seriously resist an instruction without authority?), you can still be arrested and brought to jail. You might get COVID there.

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