Reopening Your Business Under ECQ & GCQ: The Worker’s New Commute
On April 24, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the Inter-Agency Task Force’s recommendation extending the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) over areas in the Philippines considered “high risk” and implementing a General Community Quarantine (GCQ) in the rest of the country from May 1 to 15. While the ECQ only permitted a handful of industries to operate, the GCQ is oriented towards much-needed economic stimulus, and has broadened permissions for several enterprises to operate at differing capacities based on Department of Trade and Industry Memorandum Circular №20–22 (05 May 2020).
The GCQ, however, will still require implementation of Social Distancing Measures in order to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 cases. Businesses that are allowed to operate are advised to strategize under current ECQ restrictions. Neither ECQ nor GCQ will be “business as usual” for any enterprise.
Employers seeking reopening ought to focus on protecting its workforce while quarantine measures are still in place. Going to and from work, employees are still expected to encounter checkpoints in National Highways and local roads. Throughout their commute, workers can protect themselves from unnecessary issues with law enforcement agents if they are equipped with proper information and documentation. These precautionary measures will go a long way in helping your workforce move in and out with ease.
Mind Your Business
In checkpoints, personnel must be able to justify their right or purpose of travelling to and from their place of work. Workers must simply, yet quickly, explain how they are exempted from ECQ or GCQ prohibitions, whichever applies. The current definitive list for businesses permitted to operate is set forth in Section 2 and 3 of the IATF’s Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of Community Quarantine in the Philippines as supplemented by DTI M.C. №20–22 and the list of Authorized-Persons-Outside-Residence (APOR, as of 04 May) issued by Joint Task Force “CV Shield.” The IATF occasionally expands the list of permitted persons, so employers must keep abreast of developments.
Workers are advised to be ready to display their: (1) employee identification document (“company ID”) or certificate of employment; (2) government-issued identification document (“government ID”); and (3) proof of residence. An IATF ID is not mandatory.
A company ID would work best with a photograph of the worker and the signature of a supervisor/Human Resources. Displaying the work address is key in explaining the your personnel’s route. It is likewise convenient if the company officer who signed the employee ID also signed the worker’s certificate of employment. Proof of residence can be as formal as a barangay certificate but utility bills for water or electricity will do.
Employers should also consider using RapidPass, a QR Code (“Quick Response Code”) application developed with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (“DICT”) specifically adapted for use during the ECQ. With RapidPass, accredited front-liners and APOR can simply flash their unique QR codes, reducing unnecessary physical contact. Some checkpoints even provide separate lanes for Rapidpass holders. Employers can register their businesses and personnel with the DICT online. Private entities may seek approval from their respective regulatory bodies to avail of the RapidPass app.
Under extraordinary times, employers have to prepare their workers for the worst-case scenario: possible apprehension by law enforcement officers.
In checkpoints, personnel should expect their temperature taken and documents checked. Nevertheless, workers must be aware that a checkpoint should only be a brief detention. An officer may only do a visual search of the vehicle, neither driver nor passengers are obliged to open the glove compartment, trunk, or bags. You cannot be compelled to step out or be subject to a body search unless under arrest.
If the encounter unfortunately turns into an arrest, PNP protocol still mandates the officer provide his identity, authority, and the cause of the arrest/detention. To ensure the arrest is above board, inform the officer that you are recording the apprehension on video or audio for your own safety. Before you take out your recording device, openly declare this to the officer. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy for an arrest done out in public.
An arrest that is baseless and without warning is not allowed, but no matter the defect, employers must advise workers not to resist apprehension.
In this process, the officer has to read your Miranda Rights, part of which is the right to call an attorney at any stage of the arrest. If you do not have a lawyer, call an immediate family member. Relay where you are, the name of the arresting officer, and if you know which precinct you will be processed. Remain silent apart from insisting on having a lawyer present. If an officer merely invites you to the police station, insist on waiting for your attorney first.
It is vital that under these difficult circumstances, employers go the extra mile to apprise their workforce of their rights. Not only will preparation get your personnel attendance, it will also convey the message that you value their safety, as well as their rights, even outside the workplace. Every layer of protection will do well to raise the morale of your enterprise during these extraordinary times.
Mark Timothy K. Bullo is a Junior Associate at Gorriceta Africa Cauton & Saavedra (www.gorricetalaw.com). He is a member of its Litigation and Labor Departments. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the Ateneo de Manila University. He earned a Juris Doctor from the Ateneo Law School and was a council member of the Ateneo Human Rights Center. He previously worked as legal assistant with the Consultative Committee to Review the 1987 Constitution.
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