IN THE northern town of Tabogon, people had made it a habit to converge every Saturday in a village called Esi in Kal-anan for the weekly tigbakay. In Pulpogan, Consolacion last Sunday, 15 motorcycle enthusiasts participated in a motocross. And closer to home, residents of Alumnos, Basak San Nicolas held a religious procession followed by a Sinulog dance presentation late Saturday afternoon. There must have been people other than the gamblers, the riders and the dancers who were present in the three assemblies.
The illegal cockfighting was discovered because of a tip from a resident. The Tabogon police then sent a team and arrested 53 bettors. They also took into custody 17 fighting cocks and 10 cock gaffs. It is not known if they had confiscated any bet. That should be known when they file the case, which they promised to do yesterday.
There were no arrests in Consolacion. The police merely ordered the 15 riders to disperse after taking down their names. It would be interesting to know who they are; during these hard times, not too many motorcycle owners can afford burning money to gas up their machines for recreational riding. Did they belong to influential families?
The police said they did not arrest anyone because they were all cooperative with the police. That’s a strange reason to set any offender free, assuming that an offense was indeed committed. The violation was clear-cut in Tabogon because there is a law that punishes illegal gambling. It is not so clear in the Consolacion incident because motocross is not an illegal activity and the town apparently does not have an ordinance that penalizes violation of the quarantine.
Which brings us to the fiesta-related street activities in Alumnos. Unlike the province, Cebu City has a more restrictive quarantine that effectively bans going out of one’s house unless the trip is covered by any of the exceptions. Unfortunately, a fiesta is not one of those.
The San Nicolas barangay captain said he learned that there was a procession at 5:30 p.m. and promptly dispatched his tanods to disperse the crowd. Then he learned about the “offertory dance” at 6 p.m. and again sent his tanods also to disperse the crowd. In other words, the barangay’s peace officers twice went to the same area, upon the orders of their captain, within a span of 30 minutes and in both instances, all that they had done was to ask the onlookers to go home, which evidently was not followed.
I am not surprised that City Hall has sent a show-cause order to the village head and other officials. The city attorney said that if Basak San Nicolas officials cannot satisfactorily explain why they were not able to prevent the violation of ECQ protocols, his office will file criminal and administrative cases against them for dereliction of duty and negligence.
What about the violators themselves? Shouldn’t they also be similarly penalized, if not more severely?
They should but under what law? The lawyers are divided on the existence of such law but I favor the opinion that there is none. The repeated threats to arrest and charge those who violate the ECQ have been vague because there is no law that punishes anyone who does not wear a mask or practice social distancing, among other violations. The police will, of course, still arrest and perhaps even detain you but I doubt if whatever case that they will file will stick. The only deterrent factor in that threat lies not in the possibility of being convicted but in the inconvenience of being detained during custodial investigation.
That is why Mayor Edgardo Labella asked for the passage of a remedial ordinance in April but it was not passed by the city council until last week. Even if the mayor signs it this week, the earliest that the ordinance can take effect will be in the last week of July because under the Local Government Code, an ordinance that imposes penal sanctions will not take effect until after it is posted for three weeks at City Hall and published in a newspaper of general circulation.
The best option would still be to obey the regulations not because the law says so but because we believe that we owe it to ourselves and the community to do it.