Police personnel have been deployed since President Duterte placed the entire Luzon, including Metro Manila, under enhanced community quarantine on March 17, patrolling the streets to ensure that people comply with government guidelines to stay at home.
Boy Santos/File
Cops on edge over COVID, uncooperative citizens
Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star) - March 30, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Police officers on the frontlines of controlling the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic are on edge, fearing infection and needing to deal with people who defy the government’s COVID-19 quarantine measures.

Police personnel have been deployed since President Duterte placed the entire Luzon, including Metro Manila, under enhanced community quarantine on March 17, patrolling the streets to ensure that people comply with government guidelines to stay at home.

Spending days away from their families, and the risk of COVID-19 infection are taking a toll on the police personnel manning security quarantine control points in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon, according to police commanders who spoke to The STAR over the weekend on condition of anonymity.

One of the officials supervising security checkpoints in Metro Manila said the fear of getting infected by the virus is prevalent among their personnel.

The official clarified that they have enough sets of personal protective equipment (PPE) coming from the PNP and private organizations but the fear of contracting COVID-19 is always there due to people who continue to defy the administration’s quarantine guidelines.

“There are always people going out. You don’t know if they are already carriers,” the official said in Filipino.

The official cited as an example some residents of San Juan and Mandaluyong trying to cross a security checkpoint separating the two cities.

According to the official, some people from San Juan would insist on crossing the checkpoint to buy medicines, groceries and other basic goods from commercial establishments just across the border.

In some instances, a household would even use senior citizens as designated quarantine pass holders, thinking the police would be compassionate.

“We send them back because COVID-19 is more dangerous for the elderly,” the official said.

There are some cases when a person whom they allowed to cross the checkpoint in the morning would only return in the afternoon.

“Sometimes we scare them by saying we would put them in jail,” the official said.

Another Metro Manila police official, meanwhile, is wary that the lockdown will  force people to commit crimes just to survive.

“We have arrested three persons for theft and we are seeing an increase,” the official said.

The official added there is a possibility that some people  might resort to looting just to feed their families.

The official also lamented that some residents are not helping the police by continuously ignoring quarantine measures, including guidelines on social distancing to avoid contracting the virus.

The source cited a public market somewhere in Caloocan City which is always packed with customers.

“It’s hard to maintain social distancing. There are too many people,” the source said in Filipino.

In Laguna, residents have been cooperative, according to a police official who is hoping the situation would be maintained.

“The residents are still complying. There are some who still go out of their homes,” the official said in Filipino.

The official said their personnel are equipped with the necessary protective gear which came from the PNP and donations from private individuals.

Police officers who have been pulled out after exhibiting symptoms of the virus are included in the list of persons under investigation (PUIs), and have been placed in a quarantine facility at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

The PNP said at least 97 police officers are listed as PUIs, while 1,228 others are considered persons under monitoring (PUMs) for having travel history and exposure to a COVID-19 patient.

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