There are reports that some Local Government Units (LGUs) have been intercepting cargoes, including those delivery food and medical products, and stopping them from entering or passing through their respective territories. Even when these trucks are allowed to pass through, it takes forever to reach their destination because of the endless number of checkpoints and the varying policies implemented in each checkpoint. Worse, there may be instances when roads are blocked and rendered impassable.
There is a solution to these problems.
These scenarios were obviously considered when Congress passed a new law to address the national health emergency brought about by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Republic Act No. 11469, also known as the “Bayanihan to Heal As One Act,” granted emergency powers to the President and provided for a number of criminal acts.
These acts are punishable with imprisonment of two (2) months or a fine of not less than P10,000 but not more than P1,000,000, or both, such imprisonment and fine, at the discretion of the court.
Section 6(a) of R.A. 11469 provides this criminal offense: “Local Government Unit (LGU) officials disobeying national government policies or directives in imposing quarantines.” Among the emergency powers granted to the President under R.A. 11469 is the power to ensure that all LGUs are:
- Acting within the letter and spirit of all rules, regulations and directives issued by the National Government pursuant to R.A. 11469;
- Implementing standards of Community Quarantine consistent with what the National Government has laid down for the subject area, while allowing LGUs to continue exercising their autonomy in matters undefined by the National Government or are within the parameters it has set; and
- Fully cooperating towards a unified, cohesive and orderly implementation of the national policy to address COVID-19.
In summary, any act of disobedience by LGUs, including disobedience to the express policy of allowing the unhampered flow of cargo trucks, is a criminal offense.
The President is also granted, under R.A. 11469, the power to: (a) regulate traffic on all roads, streets, and bridges, and access thereto; (b) prohibit putting up encroachments or obstacles; (c) authorize the removal of encroachments and illegal constructions in public places; and (d) perform all other related acts.
To put teeth to these power, Congress decided to impose criminal sanctions under Section 6(h) of R.A. 11469, which reads: “Impeding access to roads, streets and bridges; putting up prohibited encroachments or obstacles; and maintenance of illegal constructions in public paces that have been ordered to be removed.” In other words, the President can order obstructions to be removed and, at the same time, order the arrest/prosecution of those responsible for such obstruction.