PNP: 'No difference' in quarantine implementation if military takes over

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
PNP: 'No difference' in quarantine implementation if military takes over
File photo dated April 15, 2020 shows members of the Joint Task Force COVID-19 Shield implementing quarantine measures.
The STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — Marching orders for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will remain largely the same should they take over enforcement of the enhanced community quarantine, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Sunday. 

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this week appealed for the general public to discipline themselves in observing social distancing, warning that he would issue orders for military and police enforcement that he likened to Martial Law if citizens continued to break quarantine. 

Despite gaps in social safety nets for vulnerable sectors, officials have been ramping up the narrative that Filipinos are "pasaway"— or are stubbornly ignoring quarantine guidelines.

This week, the Palace in an online press briefing said that having among the highest rates of infection Southeast Asia is due to Filipinos circumventing lockdown regulations. 

READ: Duterte asks public for 'discipline' in following quarantine rules

"I'm just asking for your discipline. If you don't believe me, the military and the police will take over. I am ordering the police and military now to be ready. They will enforce social distancing and the curfew," the chief executive said in Filipino in his livestreamed public address Tuesday night.

Duterte's appeal came despite security forces already having manned quarantine checkpoints since mid-March.The inter-agency task force on COVID-19 also said last Sunday that military and police teams will be sent to public markets to prevent crowding.

According to a report from ABS-CBN News, Brigadier Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, has confirmed the existence of a document from the Philippine Air Force that was leaked on social media website Reddit that mentioned a possible "martial law-type" role for the AFP and the PNP. 

'No difference'

Asked how different the execution of the quarantine would be under the military's helm should such an order be issued, Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson, said there would be "no difference" from how physical distancing is being enforced now.

READ: All barangay checkpoints now under PNP

"From the start of enhanced community quarantine, all inter-agency task force guidelines have been jointly implemented by combined AFP-PNP through the Joint Task Force COVID-19 Shield," Banac told Philstar.com in a text message Saturday morning. 

"[There will be no] change in the role of PNP. Any level of enhanced community quarantine will remain a joint implementation by AFP-PNP. It is now headed by [Police Lieutenant General] Guillermo Eleazar," he said. 

Eleazar is head of Task Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield (JTF CV Shield). 

Banac also said that there are no currently no talks between the AFP and the PNP on how a "martial law" type of enforcement will be implemented.

"No, any further action will be done at the IATF level. The JTF-CV Shield will just be the implementing arm," he said. 

RELATED: What is the PNP's role in a state of public health emergency?

Besides enforcing quarantine procedures, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III also told Philstar.com earlier that the national police could assist in contact tracing measures "if warranted."

'Something wrong with government response'

In an online press briefing on Friday, rights groups slammed what they said was a "militaristic approach to a health problem."

Dr. Nymia Simbulan, Philippine Human Rights Information Center executive director, said that the usage of war as a metaphor when referring to the government's fight against pandemic is intentional because this highlights the important the role of and reliance on the military presence. 

The rights activist also challenged the notion that the high numbers in COVID-19 cases was due to the stubbornness of Filipinos. 

"Why are some of our fellow Filipinos, especially the poor, acting that way? I think there is something wrong with the way the state is handling this pandemic," she said. 

"That's why if anyone is being stubborn, you hit them, you punish them, you torture them. That's what our government believes."

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