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Parents liable

Minors also included in ordinance penalizing non-wearing of masks

 

The City Council puts some teeth into the health guideline on the mandatory wearing of face masks in public places. On Tuesday, lawmakers have passed an ordinance imposing a fine or imprisonment on offenders. BING GONZALES

PARENTS and guardians of minors caught not wearing their face masks while out on the street will not escape the corresponding fine.

On July 7, the 19th City Council passed an ordinance, authored by Councilor Myrna Dalodo-Ortiz, under suspended rules imposing a penalty on the failure to wear face masks in public places and establishments.

The legislation originally slapped a P1,000 fine for the first offense, P2,000 for the second offense, and P5,000 or one-month imprisonment for the succeeding offenses.

First, Councilor Diosdado Angelo Mahipus Jr. raised the permissibility of passing the ordinance under suspended rules considering the penal provisions.

“This item is not just a declaratory resolution or ordinance. This is an ordinance penal in nature,” he said.

“I do not think it is proper for an ordinance that is penal in character to be passed under suspended rules because I remember somewhere in the Local Government Code, it states therein that an ordinance which is penal in nature requires a public hearing.”
But Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang said that holding a public hearing will take time, which goes against the purpose of the ordinance.

In addition to the endorsement from the City Mayor’s Office, he said, the City Legal Office already issued a legal opinion finding no flaws in the proposal.

“It is not anymore necessary to conduct a public hearing. We are just requiring the people to wear a face mask. Our situation is abnormal and we need to act on this,” Dayanghirang said, adding that some Davaoeños have become complacent knowing they would not suffer the consequences of failing to wear a covering on their faces.

The City Legal Office sent an opinion dated July 7, 2020, finding no legal infirmity on the ordinance, including the penalties.

“It is our view that the measure is in tuned with the existing national issuances and guidelines and can be validly passed by the city council to effectively address the COVID-19 pandemic,” the legal opinion stated.

Parents held liable

Mahipus later threw his support for the ordinance but suggested that parents and guardians should be responsible for their underage children. He was reacting to the remark made by Councilor Conrado Baluran who noticed minors not wearing their masks while gathering in groups inside private subdivisions.

“There is a requirement that minors should not go out,” he said. “We put a provision there that minors who go out and do not wear masks, the guardians and parents of minors who are out on the streets and not wearing masks can be the subject of penalties.”

Mahipus also said that the ordinance should penalize the improper wearing of the face mask other than the failure to wear one.

No-contest clause

He also suggested amending the ordinance to insert a no-contest clause. An individual who is caught violating the law can opt to pay the administrative fine rather than allowing the matter to be elevated to the courts.

With the no-contest provision, offenders will simply pay the corresponding fine to the City Treasurer’s Office and remove their liability in the ordinance instead of adjudicating the case.

Councilor Principe Antoinette Principe, meanwhile, added that that fine of P1,000 for the first offense is too steep.

“Although we should already be cognizant of our responsibility to wear a mask and wear it in public, there are far-flung barangays who have no easy access to masks and they are not aware that there is a penal clause,” she said.

Principe also suggested ordering first-time offenders to render community service instead.

Fine reduced

The ordinance was in danger of being deferred to the next session on July 14, but the author of the ordinance stood her ground. She said that community service will involve a lot of moving parts and imposing a fine would be much easier.

“We all considered this as an urgent matter because of this COVID-19 pandemic,” Ortiz said. “As explained by the chief executive in her radio program, there is already an executive order to this effect. But the chief executive is asking that we will add a penal provision to Executive Order 33-A to give teeth to this executive order.”

It is the reason why she asked permission from Vice Mayor Sebastian Duterte to introduce the proposal on suspended rules.

The proponent of the ordinance agreed to carry the amendment, particularly on the fine for the first offense. In the end, the lawmakers approved the final legislation that reduced the fine for the first offense to P500, which serves as the administrative fee. The penalties for the second and third offenses remained undisturbed.

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