While President Rodrigo R. Duterte gave an order on Wednesday to arrest barangay captains in areas where there have been mass gatherings in violation of coronavirus health protocols, these are already covered by existing sanctions against public officials who fail to perform their duty, said Department of Justice (DoJ) officials.

“(R)egarding Barangay Captains who fail to enforce rules against mass gatherings, this may also fall under dereliction of duty under (Chapter Two – Malfeasance and Misfeasance in Office of) the Revised Penal Code,” DoJ Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar told reporters on Friday.

The “Dereliction of duty” clause states that “(t)he penalty of prison correctional in its minimum period and suspension shall be imposed upon any public officer, or officer of the law, who, in dereliction of the duties of his office, shall maliciously refrain from instituting prosecution for the punishment of violators of the law, or shall tolerate the commission of offenses.”

Ms. Aglipay-Villar added that it may also fall under Section 6(a) of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or Republic Act 11469, which was signed into law on March 25, 2020.

It states that, “local government unit officials who disobey national government policies or directives in regard to quarantine impositions… (may face) imprisonment of two months or a fine of not less than (P10,000) but not more than (P1 million) or both, at the discretion of the court.”

DoJ Undersecretary Adrian F. Sugay, in a message to reporters on Friday, assured that the Philippine National Police (PNP) will “strictly observe the Rules of Court, particularly the rule on warrantless arrests, and relevant policies protocols in the enforcement of all relevant rules, guidelines, and ordinances.”

Mr. Sugay also said the guidelines on the arrest of those improperly wearing their face masks will “probably be (released) early next week” after the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the PNP chiefs affix their signatures. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago