Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Friday said individuals who will refuse to comply with the directive to wear a face mask will be detained for a maximum of 12 hours.
“If the individual will defy or refuses to comply, arrests may be made by the police in order to protect public health and safety. In the absence of a local ordinance, violators will be detained for a maximum of 12 hours and will be released if no charges have been filed,” he said in a statement.
Año also directed all police stations nationwide to “prepare detention areas that do not violate minimum health standards.”
“They shall coordinate with the barangay and the LGUs so that additional facilities outside of police stations may be utilized for this purpose to prevent crowding and mass gatherings,” he said.
Senator Christopher Go, a close aide to President Rodrigo Duterte, said those arrested would be given masks “out of compassion.”
He said the President ordered their arrest because he wanted to discipline them.
Go said he also talked to PNP Chief General Guillermo Eleazar to give those arrested for not wearing a face mask a face mask and a lecture “before sending them home.”
Malacañang on Thursday said it was valid for cops to carry out warrantless arrests against people who are improperly wearing a face mask even as the Interior department said it will be recalibrating its response to avoid congesting jails amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have an ordinance that paves the way for the outright apprehension, warrantless arrest (because) a crime was committed in the presence and with the full personal knowledge of the police officer,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government, for its part, said it will meet with the Philippine National Police and local government units on the implementation of Duterte's order.
Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, interviewed over ANC’s Headstart, said, “we may need to do some recalibration and make the necessary preparations because if we do make arrests, we also need to prepare our detention cells because there may be a larger number of people detained than before."
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra defended Duterte’s order to arrest and detain persons who would be caught not wearing face masks properly in public places, which health authorities said have contributed to the surge in the number of COVID-19 infections in the country.
“The President’s strategy is to strictly implement health protocols, such as wearing face masks, so that the spread of the disease is put under control and the full opening of the economy is accelerated,” he said.
The Commission on Human Rights, on the other hand, said the directive could lead to “excessive discretion and abuse” of authorities.