A graduate school of law dean finds it odd that the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) gave a legal opinion about warrantless arrests as part of community quarantine measures to curb the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), saying the PACC doesn’t have the competency and obligation to do so.

San Sebastian College – Recoletos Graduate School of Law dean Atty. Rodel Taton said the PACC isn’t mandated under the law to give out legal opinions or remind the public about legal matters when it is not within the body’s authority and competency.

The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) earlier warned quarantine violators that the government can conduct warrantless arrests.

It said that individuals who were openly violating quarantine measures pose a threat to the community.

“To protect these violators from themselves and to protect public health, as well of those enforcing the quarantine measures, arrests may be affected,” it said.

“Desperate times, call for desperate measures […] Uncooperative individuals cannot be allowed to have their way, and pose a serious threat to the health of the public,” the commission added.

The PACC was created in 2017 through Executive Order No. 43 to look into allegations of excessive lifestyles and graft and corruption activities of presidential appointees, and then recommend punishment against those officials which could range from suspension to removal from office.

“They [PACC] have no obligation. They cannot do that.  Theirs is recommendatory,” Taton said in reaction to PACC’s statements.

Taton, who writes a legal column at PressOne.PH, however, agrees that warrantless arrests can be made when a crime is being committed and especially during the time when the government is strictly implementing quarantine measures.

“Warrantless arrests are done by the officer when a crime is being committed, just been committed or when there is a reason to believe that a crime has been committed,” he said, adding that even without a community quarantine declaration, warrantless arrests are done.

Taton added that a violation of any local ordinance and violation of the Price Act can be used as grounds for warrantless arrests.

A prize freeze is currently in effect in the country and various profiteers have already been arrested for overpricing various consumer goods like alcohols and face masks.

To avoid getting arrested, Taton advised all citizens to cooperate with the government in the implementation of community quarantine measures as this is for “the safety and protection of the entire community.”

 “The warrantless arrests should be avoided by staying home. We heard reports about abuses of the warrantless arrests even in the normal times, worst thing to happen at this time of pandemic and emergency situation. The possible abuses of the enforcers are high so there must be a need to be vigilant and we must know our rights. Remember that we did not surrender our human rights with the stay at home orders,“ he said.  (Rommel F. Lopez)