PNP: 'No pressing need' for martial law because of COVID-19 pandemic

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
PNP: 'No pressing need' for martial law because of COVID-19 pandemic
MPD chief PBGEN Rolando Miranda deploys members of the PNP-Special Action Force to help enforce the implementation of the 2nd day "hard lockdown" at the Tondo District 1 in Manila on Monday midnight. The enforced 48-hour hard lockdown by city mayor Francisco Isko Domagoso is part of the LGU's effort to implement mass testing among its residents to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police, which has been implementing a "martial law-like" enforcement of quarantine guidelines, sees no need for President Rodrigo Duterte to actually declare martial law.

The statement comes within days of Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo voicing an idea—since disavowed by the Palace as just his opinion—that the COVID-19 pandemic is an "invasion" that would justify the declaration.

"The PNP sees no pressing need to place the country under martial law due to the present emergency situation caused by COVID-19," Police Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, spokesperson for the agency taking the lead in enforcing the quarantine, said.

"There is no imminent threat from rebellion or invasion as of yet to justify the declaration of martial law."

READ: Despite Panelo's claims, COVID-19 not the 'invasion' to justify martial law

With Metro Manila in its seventh week of enhanced community quarantine, the national police is in the middle of what it vowed to be tighter enforcement of quarantine rules—which the president compared to martial law—where cops would no longer warn people before arresting them. 

'Lower crime incidence'

"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 Gen. Archie Gamboa, PNP chief, said in Filipino in an earlier interview with DZMM. 

At Wednesday afternoon's Rektang Covid Shield update, Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, who heads the enforcement arm of the country's COVID-19 task force, said that crime had been trending downwards in the 50 days since enhanced community quarantine was declared. 

Fewer crimes as more people stay at home

In the past 50 days of community quarantine, Eleazar said, the Joint Task Force Covid Shield recorded a 61-percent lowered crime rate compared to the days before the quarantine was declared—a trend which continued to go down supposedly due to police intervention including curfew and police visibility.

Crime rate refers to the ratio of crimes committed per 100,000 people in a population.

Eleazar also said that the trend was also directly related to the instruction from the Department of Interior and Local Government on April 24 to no longer warn suspects before arresting them. 

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

According to Wednesday's Joint Task Force Covid Shield update, 162,723 curfew violators were recorded since the enhanced community quarantine was put in place on March 17, with 44,710 of them being placed under arrest. 

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte's weekly report to Congress on the use of his emergency powers said that over 1,200 cases of violence against women and children were reported to the police in that same span of time.

"Nonetheless, the PNP leaves this matter to the better judgment of the national leadership if it so finds it necessary," Banac added. 

"In such case, the PNP shall be ready to abide by and implement the orders of the President of the Philippines."

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