PNP: We'll go 'straight to arrests' in 'martial law-type' quarantine

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
PNP: We'll go 'straight to arrests' in 'martial law-type' quarantine
This was signalled by the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday, saying cops would directly apprehend any violators of lockdown protocols should the chief executive's earlier pronouncement of a "Martial Law"-like community quarantine become a formal order.
Michael Varcas / File

MANILA, Philippines — No more warnings before arrests. 

This was signalled by the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday, saying cops would directly apprehend any violators of lockdown protocols should the chief executive's earlier pronouncement of a "Martial Law"-like community quarantine become a formal order.

President Rodrigo Duterte last week asked the public to discipline themselves in observing social distancing and said that he would order the military and police to take over enforcement of the former, which he likened to Martial Law, if quarantine procedures were still broken. 

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

According to Police Gen. Archie Gamboa, PNP chief, Duterte was referring to the implementation of rules in terms of arrests, when he likened the option to martial law. 

"It's because people don't want to stay in their homes. That's really what he's putting emphasis on. Social distancing should be followed," he said in Filipino in an interview with DZMM. 

Government officials have been ramping up the narrative that Filipinos have not been following quarantine guidelines in recent days as April 30, the projected day that the quarantine across Luzon will be lifted, saying this is why cases continue to rise.

But an increase in cases is expected as the government tests more potential COVID-19 cases.

"When he says martial law, it means the President would like to emphasize that we would really make some arrests. I think the public has to show they can behave so this does not follow through. If it does, it will be the full implementation of the law. We won't issue warnings, we'll go straight to arrests."

Police have actually been arresting people who violate curfews and other quarantine guidelines since March. At the end of March, more than 69,000 had been arrested or fined.

RELATED: CHR: Human rights, writ of habeas corpus remain during state of national emergency, calamity

Safeguards against warrantless arrest are still in place amid a state of national emergency. 

Potential AFP takeover 

Despite a pronounced lack of social safety nets for poor families and vulnerable sectors, public officials have been often reverberated the narrative that Filipinos are "pasaway"— or are stubbornly ignoring quarantine guidelines and leaving their homes.

In a leaked document since confirmed by the military, the Philippine Air Force noted a possible "martial law-type" role for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PNP.

Marching orders for the AFP, though, are set to remain the same should they take over enforcement of the enhanced community quarantine, the PNP said earlier.

Consequently, they said, there would be "no difference" in the community quarantine protocols should they take the helm in implementing the lockdown.

READ: Public urged to document attacks, abuses during Luzon lockdown

Although Police Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson, told Philstar.com earlier that the military and the national police were not coordinating on the possible orders, Gamboa said that the PNP was preparing for such a shift on its own. 

"As directed by him, we are required to prepare, and as a matter of fact, we are already preparing for deployment," he said. 

Gamboa pointed to provisions in the Bayanihan Heal as One Act of 2020 along with the Revised Penal Code prohibiting resisting of arrest. 

"The Philippine National Police can multi-charge a person, which we have already done, if they don't comply with the policies of the inter-agency task force," he said. 

The police chief also said that the national police is encouraging local government units to come up with ordinances to ensure quarantine policies, such as wearing face masks and observing physical distancing.

'We are not at war'

On Friday, rights advocates at an online press conference slammed the Duterte administration's response to the health crisis, which they said needed medical solutions and not military ones. 

READ: 'War' narrative in COVID-19 crisis fails to empower Filipinos, groups say

Rights monitor Karapatan on Monday afternoon echoed these sentiments, slamming the government's pronouncement that COVID-19 numbers in the country were a result of Filipinos' stubbornness. 

"People are going out of their homes to flock to markets or to continue their livelihood because of their precarious living conditions caused by years of government neglect and anti-poor policies. They are not receiving sufficient aid, if they even receive anything at all, and now, the government is more intent in criminalizing and penalizing the poor for their poverty," their statement read. 

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