Photo dated March 17 shows local police manning a checkpoint along Ortigas Avenue Extension which borders Cainta, Rizal to Pasig City on Tuesday midnight as they enforce a stricter inspection at vehicles of passing motorists following the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman
Compassion for curfew violators defeats purpose of quarantine, task force says
(Philstar.com) - March 29, 2020 - 5:25pm

MANILA, Philippines — Despite reports of excesses including people being locked up in dog cage in Laguna, authorities said they will continue to arrest violators of the enhanced community quarantine. 

This comes as the Department of Justice (DOJ) launches its online inquest proceedings project amid the directive for the executive branch to identify skeletal workforces in their agencies. 

These were confirmed in a statement issued by Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, Philippine National Police (PNP) Deputy Chief of Operations and commander of Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield (JTF CV Shield) on Sunday afternoon. 

“Just imagine if, shall we say a quarter of these violators are already virus carriers, they will not only endanger the health and the lives of our policemen and other people manning the quarantine control points but also the health workers and other front-liners who are exempted from the quarantine,” Eleazar said.

According to Eleazar, the assessment of the PNP concluded that the number of curfew violators would continue to rise if violators are shown "compassion".

Data from the national police recorded 42,826 apprehended curfew violators from March 17 to 27 in the first 11 days of quarantine.

'Combat COVID-19 while respecting rights'

In a statement issued on Thursday, international rights organization Human Rights Watch slammed what they said were violations of human rights after the organization received reports of local officials putting violators in dog cages and forcing them to sit in the sun. 

“Police and local officials should respect the rights of those they arrest for violating curfew and other public health regulations, which can be done while still allowing the Philippines government to take appropriate measures to combat COVID-19,” said Phil Robertson, HRW deputy Asia director.  

“Any mistreatment should be immediately investigated, and the authorities responsible held accountable.”

But the task force commander said that that would lead to more violations.

“This will definitely defeat the purpose of the declaration of the enhanced community quarantine which President Duterte approved purposely to contain the COVID-19,” Eleazar said.

READ: DOJ: No arrest, no action on Pimentel's breach of hospital protocol sans complaint

Compassion for politicians

On another front, the Justice Department earlier said that in the case of  Sen. Koko Pimentel III, compassion is the watchword.

"As I have said before, during abnormal times like these, when people are prone to commit mistakes or violations of the law, the DOJ will temper the rigor of the law with human compassion," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters.

This came after calls were made to have an official complaint filed against the senator after he breached quarantine and hospital protocols and made confirmed trips to Makati Medical Center and to S&R Membership Shopping in Taguig despite knowing he may be a carrier for COVID-19.

Pimentel was at MMC when he was informed he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus disease.

Guidelines on arrests

The task force also bared a number of recommendations and guidelines for the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Justice Department on the arrest of curfew violators that were approved by Police Gen. Archie Gamboa, which include:

  • Physical punishment on arrested curfew violators is strictly prohibited 
  • Coordination with local chief executives to indicate temporary detention centers where social distancing is still possible for arrested violators and 
  • Coordination with local chief executives on "proper disposition of arrested curfew violators" based on the penalties stipulated in the respective LGU’s ordinances;
  • Violators must be held for a maximum of 12 hours "while being admonished so as to deter them from repeating the offense" if will be released over a decision whose case filing will be scheduled after the quarantine

“Our message to the public is clear, we will continue to arrest any person who will violate the curfew,” he said.

“The virus does not move. People move it. We stop moving, the virus stops. It’s that simple." — Franco Luna with reports from Kristine Joy Patag

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