When President Rodrigo Duterte urged Congress to enact several laws during his State of the Nation Address in July, they really followed through. Among the many bills they’re doubling down on recently is a bill for a “better normal.”
Under House Bill No. 6864 or Better Normal for the Workplace, Communities and Public Spaces Act of 2020, several safety measures could be enforced for the next three years, starting from the date the bill will officially becomes law.
What does this mean for us?
- Everyone will be required to wear face masks
- Physical distancing will be strictly observed, whether in public or in the workplace
- Passengers must sanitize their hands before boarding public transportation
- “Contactless” payment methods will be utilized more
- Schools will have to continue implementing flexible learning programs
- Workplaces will have to submit a management plan to local authorities to be able to operate their businesses
Violators of the mask provision will be fined for P1,000 or a day of community service, while violators of other provisions may face imprisonment of up to two months and a fine of up to P50,000.
A similar bill was filed back in April (HB No. 6623), which some business groups challenged and called on lawmakers instead to improve an already existing bill: RA 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, which lays out strategies to address outbreaks and public health emergencies.
The Better Normal bill already raised concerns earlier this year, with critics claiming it’s “prone to abuse” as it criminalizes gatherings without a “better normal permit,” or a government-issued permit.
Parties, weddings and other big events will need to be approved by local authorities, but so do other types of public gatherings. Private gatherings like meetings might also be penalized.
Rep. Carlos Zarate, who was among the 242 lawmakers who approved the bill, withdrew his “yes” vote days after the bill was approved.
According to his letter to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, it is because the provision on public gatherings impinges on “constitutionally guaranteed” freedom of expression.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate formally withdraws his "yes" vote for House Bill No. 6864 or the Better Normal Bill, which was recently approved in the lower chamber. | @NAMercadoINQ pic.twitter.com/syjgMwuewg
— Inquirer (@inquirerdotnet) August 12, 2020
With the enactment of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Law already invading the safety of both public and private spaces, we don’t need another law that threatens our constitutional rights under the guise of public health measures.
Art by Jan Cardasto