Duterte tells students: Keep studying even if classes are suspended
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - March 12, 2020 - 10:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — Classes in Metro Manila will be suspended on all levels until April 12 but students must not use the time to have a good time, President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday.

Addressing the nation on Thursday night, Duterte said the extended suspension of classes was among the recommended "social distancing" measures against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Duterte said, however, that the suspension is on the condition "that all students have been able to fulfill their educational requirements within said period." 

"Kung wala kang magawa, sabi ng gobyerno, mag-aral ka (If there is nothing to do, the government says you should study)," he said. 

"Ang sigurado ako, mga kamay ninyo, nasa cellphone yan instead of studying."

(I am sure you are holding your cellphone instead of studying)

'Military and police to maintain peace and order'

The president also said that the police and the military could be deployed to "maintain peace and order," though he admitted that he did not have "enough military and police forces to cover every inch of the country."

This came as he announced that Metro Manila would be quarantined. "Hindi ito martial law. It's not even something extraordinary," he said. 

To make up for the lack of manpower, Duterte said that he would tap barangay captains to maintain peace and order in the streets. 

'Prison time' for breaking quarantine measures

However, he was careful to warn students and barangay officials alike to do what was expected of them or face consequences, saying both groups could face prison time if they were to step out of line.

"There are a set of rules governing the responsibilities of a Filipino citizen. You have duties to perform also. Avoid trouble with the law, avoid trouble with anybody, just in the meantime, better just stay home and study," he told students. 

"I do not want anybody to interfere in your enjoyment. Ayaw ko na masita kayo ng police at military. It could be messy. Itong mga police at military, they have their orders to enforce."

His warnings were especially pointed for erring barangay captains, or those who did not do their jobs, saying, "You will also go to prison for dereliction of duty."

"It falls upon your shoulders to exactly do what this regulation wants to happen," he said. 

"If there's a good case against you, you lose the position and you're dismissed. In the worst case scenario, you'll go to jail. Better to be always reminded of that duty. Pinili mo yan, wag ka mag tamad-tamaran. Ginusto mo yung position, magtrabaho ka. You chose to be a part of government."

'Lockdown' to be used sparingly

Duterte maintained that all of this was to protect citizens from the new pathogen. 

Although the word "lockdown" was not explicitly used in the resolution, the following quarantine measures were rolled out:

  • "Community quarantine" imposed on the entirety of Metro Manila
  • Barangay-wide quarantine advised in areas with at least two confirmed cases
  • Province-wide quarantine advised in areas with at least two confirmed cases belonging to different municipalities, component cities or indepenent component cities in the same municipality 

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Thursday asked the media to use the term "lockdown" sparingly in their reportage as this word could trigger panic.

DILG Spokesperson and Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya earlier said that a lockdown would mean that people would be confined and not allowed to leave. 

“That’s why the word lockdown is usually used with relation to prisoners. So when China declared a lockdown in Wuhan, their citizens are not allowed to leave those cities and the highways were closed. That’s a lockdown,” he said in a statement sent to reporters.

But at Thursday night's address, the President admitted, "Ayaw naming gamitin yan. But there is a lockdown."

In a text message, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told Philstar.com that the national police could assist in enforcing quarantine "if warranted."

'Wag kayong matakot sa sundalo. Sundalo ninyo 'yan. Ang AFP is there to serve you. 'Wag kayong matakot," Duterte said. 

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