Law and Order Amidst Corona

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The response of governments around the world on the rapid spread of the Covid-19 or Corona Virus has put our civilization at a standstill. Movements of people have now been restricted, businesses closed, crowd drawing activities cancelled, and social interactions have now been modified or limited as preventive measures to stop the spread of the virus. It is not the infection of the virus per se that is causing all the economic or social impact but rather our action in trying to avoid more transmission and infection. It is hard for us to imagine how our more vulnerable members of our society are dealing with this almost one month community quarantine. The cessation of operation of the so called “informal” businesses that many Filipinos depend upon for their survival will mean that they will have no income during the duration of the quarantine.
One of the first actions of the National Government is the deployment of the police to put up checkpoints and impose the community quarantine. The question then arose on how should the police deal with those who disobey or go against their orders.

Disobedience to a Person in Authority

“Art. 151. Resistance and disobedience to a person in authority or the agent of such person. – The penalty of arresto mayor and a fine not exceeding 500 pesos shall be imposed upon any person who not being included in the provisions of the preceding articles shall resist or seriously disobey any person in authority, or the agents of such person, while engaged in the performance of official duties.” This provision may apply in case individuals refuse to heed or obey the lawful order of police officers or their agents in relation to the checkpoints or the community quarantine being imposed.
Article 152 adds that: “A barangay captain and a barangay chairman shall also be deemed a person in authority. Any person who, by direct provision of law or by election or by appointment by competent authority, is charged with the maintenance of public order and the protection and security of life and property, such as a barrio councilman, barrio policeman and barangay leader, and any person who comes to the aid of persons in authority, shall be deemed an agent of a person in authority.”
It must be emphasized that the person in authority must be engaged in the performance of his duties when the offense was committed and the offender must have known that the person he is disobeying is a person in authority. Uniforms and any identification must be worn by said persons in authority for the offense to be under this provision of the law. In one case, the Supreme Court said: “Before a person can be held guilty of the crime of resistance or disobedience to a person in authority or the agent of such person it must be shown beyond reasonable doubt that the accused knew that the person he disobeyed or resisted is a person in authority or the agent of such person who is actually engaged in the performance of his official duties. What is punished as an act of resistance or serious disobedience under the Revised Penal Code is not the resistance or disobedience against a person in authority or an agent of such person in his capacity as a private individual but in his official capacity as n authority under the law, or as agent of the law, while engaged in the performance of his official duties.” (G.R. Nos. L-20246-48 April 24, 1967). During this difficult time, it is expected that tensions might rise especially at the checkpoints. The application of force or resort to the filling of cases in court are things we do not need at this point. Patience, restraint, and calmness are to be exercised for the orderly management of the present situation.

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