Photo shows members of the Highway Patrol Group, which is part of the enforcement arm of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, enforcing quarantine rules.
MANILA, Philippines — Adding to a heightened police presence in Metro Manila’s business districts, police commanders have been directed to send more personnel to transport hubs, the quarantine enforcement arm of the coronavirus task force said.
In a statement issued earlier this weekend, Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said that police can conduct random checks in jeepneys and buses “and other areas where commuters usually converge to avail of public transport” to ensure the public’s compliance with public health protocols amid the coronavirus-induced general community quarantine.
“As the national government lifted some of the restrictions in public transportation as part of the measures to reopen our economy, we will make sure that the guidelines issued by the National Task Force on COVID-19 is strictly observed. The operators, drivers and even the passengers have the obligation to ensure that they are protected against those who would defy the rules,” said Eleazar.
With general community quarantine now extended until end-September in Metro Manila and other areas, more business establishments will be permitted to resume operations once more. The Joint Task Force COVID Shield said it would be going “all-out” in its enforcement of curfews regardless of quarantine designations, and will also be sending more cops to business districts.
Eleazar in his statement also appealed to the netizens to assist the PNP in running after the violators of quarantine protocols, “even if those involved are policemen.”
For his part, Police Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan, chief of the Philippine National Police also said: “Our policemen should be conducting regular patrol to ensure that the wearing of face masks and face shields and the observance of proper physical distancing in public transport like buses, jeepneys and even on tricycles are followed.”
“I will see to it that everybody who imposes or implements the law shall be disciplined and should also follow the law that they are implementing,” Cascolan said.
PNP told: Use social media to monitor violations
Police commanders have also recently been directed to monitor social media for violations of health protocols, according to the quarantine enforcement arm of the coronavirus task force.
In a statement issued Saturday, the Joint Task Force COVID Shield said that violations of minimum health safety standard protocols are either posted on social media by in complaint or inadvertently by those participating in the violations, which it said includes “drinking sessions” violating the ban on mass gatherings.
“The social media are full of photos and evidence of hardheaded people deliberately violating the quarantine protocols. These can be used as pieces of evidence to warn, to fine and to summon the people concerned in coordination with the barangay officials concerned,” said Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, task force commander.
Eleazar also said that “those who would be caught engaging in drinking sessions may face additional charges especially if there is an existing liquor ban in their respective communities.”
Law enforcement and social media
This sentiment is nothing new, however, as the task force has already used “observations from social media” to justify its push for stricter enforcement in the past.
The PNP, too, has in the past used social media to tag government critics as communist rebels on its public social media channels, in direct violation of what its own social media protocols say. Some of the posts are still available on their respective pages as of this post, despite then-chief Police Gen. Archie Gamboa saying such content could warrant criminal and administrative raps for erring cops.
In early August, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, newly appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines chief, said he wanted the controversial anti-terror law to also cover social media use.
At a press briefing then, Gapay said that he would recommend provisions on “regulating social media because this is now the platform being used by terrorists to radicalize, recruit and even plan terrorist acts” and “how to curb radicalization of the youth so will be providing some inputs on countering violent extremism” for the law’s implementing rules and regulations.
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