Laws are made not only to protect people but also to maintain peace and order. Some laws might be difficult to obey, but everyone must comply because ignorance of the law excuses no one (ignorantia legis non excusat).
At the peak of the pandemic situation in the Philippines, Filipinos from different walks of life were forced to stay at home and wait for “ayuda” — be it money or in kind.
Many couldn’t even go out not only because they fear contracting COVID-19 but also because they fear police or military officers who might arrest them for violating quarantine protocols.
When the first community lockdown was implemented in the entire Luzon, more than 300,000 quarantine violators were apprehended across the country.
But there are four notable personalities who got scot-free despite their quarantine violations. They were unscathed simply because they are allies of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Former Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Deputy Administrator Mocha Uson drew flak for gathering 322 repatriated OFWs in Lian, Batangas who were ordered to go under a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Apart from flouting orders, the event also failed to follow social distancing.
Defending herself, Uson said: “Ang pagbisitang ito rin sa kanila ay aming ginawa upang palakasin ang kanilang loob, at ipabatid sa kanila na hindi sila pinapabayaan ng ating administrasyon.”
In March, Senator Koko Pimentel began showing flu symptoms on March 14 and had himself tested for COVID-19 on March 20.
The senator, however, still went to the Makati Medical Center (MMC) on March 25 with his wife Kathryna who was due to deliver their baby. Pimentel got his positive result on the same day while at the hospital.
With this, MMC called Pimentel “reckless” for his move. It prompted the hospital to sterilize facilities the senator came in contact with, crippling the resources of the already overwhelmed hospital.
Amid netizens’ backlash, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra, appealed for compassion: “During abnormal times like this, when people are prone to commit mistakes or violations of the law, the DOJ will temper the rigor of the law with human compassion. But this is not to say that the DOJ will not act upon the filing of a proper complaint by any interested party,” said Guevarra.
Despite the government’s prohibition on mass gathering in Metro Manila and other provinces, the former National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief celebrated his birthday with other policemen through a “mañanita” in Camp Bagong Diwa last May 8
Social media photos of the event show that attendees failed to observe quarantine guidelines such as the wearing of face masks and social distancing.
The controversy surfaced amid the high number of police brutality incidents against ordinary citizens who allegedly committed quarantine violations.
Ironically, Duterte defended Sinas, calling him a “good officer” and insisting that Sinas would get to keep his post as Metro Manila police chief. Six months later, Sinas would rise to power as the new PNP chief.
In a recent three-minute televised speech, Duterte said: “Alam mo kasi ‘yang mañanita, it’s a religious, almost a religious ritual. Nakaugalian na talaga ng mga Pilipino.”
“Hindi kasalanan ng pobreng Sinas na ‘yan na pumunta sila doon, hindi naman niya alam. At kung may kasalanan siya doon, pardon na siya. Wala akong nakitang kasalanan na masama na may moral implications, may kasamang malisya, wala,” he added.
In July, Ocean Adventure posted on social media photos showing the presidential spokesperson clad in a rash guard and swimming cap, posing beside dolphins on a beach. Two other photos showed him speaking with park staff. Though there was some distance between them, Roque did not wear a mask.
This, which Roque called as a “side trip,” deviated from the government’s protocol of avoiding non-essential travels.
“Kung meron man akong na-offend sa mga nakita nilang larawan, paumanhin po dahil tao lang po. Kung tatanungin niyo po ang mga taga-Malacañang, ang trabaho ko po walang Sabado-Linggo. Kung kinakailangang mag-break, isingit mo kung kailan maisisingit,” said Roque.
“Hayaan niyo po, hindi na mauulit ‘yan kasi hopefully, mage-MGCQ na rin sa Metro Manila. Kung may linabag na social distancing, ang katabi ko mga dolphin. For those I offended I’m sorry, tao lang po,” the Palace official added.
This November, as thousands of Filipinos struggle with the aftermath of three consecutive typhoons in various provinces, a video of him singing “Pare Ko” went viral on social media.
In a statement, Roque, who was visibly not wearing a mask in the video, just said: “Just when I thought I could unload a little after a hectic week/s, my unremarkable singing as a means of unloading goes public and I get a beating.”
In late October, the Department of Health (DOH) released guidelines through its circular No. 2020-0355 advising limited face-to-face activities even during the holidays. The DOH also discouraged the use of videoke machines for singing as such an activity could transmit the virus.
People who support the current administration would always argue that “the law may be harsh, but that is the law.” The Latin maxim “dura lex sed lex” should apply to all, but not in the case of the allies of President Duterte in the government.
As public officials, they are expected to serve as good examples of law obedience and not otherwise. In case of disobedience, they should have at least initiated claiming their wrongdoing and stepped down from their posts.