'Strict measures are the new normal' under General Community Quarantine

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
'Strict measures are the new normal' under General Community Quarantine
Photo shows members of the Highway Patrol Group, which is part of the enforcement arm of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, enforcing quarantine rules.
Release / JTF CV Shield

MANILA, Philippines — The enforcement arm of the country's COVID-19 task force is gearing up for stricter implementation of quarantine rules even after enhanced community quarantine is lifted in some areas.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) is set to convene on Monday to discuss possible scenarios post-May 15.

In a statement sent to reporters, Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, who heads the Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield (JTF CV Shield), said that should the shift to GCQ in some areas still under the enhanced quarantine take place, that would mean heightened police visibility. 

While all quarantine control points would likely remain under GCQ, Eleazar said, the procedure to pass through them will likely be eased to avoid traffic buildup.

“Under GCQ, more establishments will be allowed to operate because our economy will be partially opened. This means that more people would be allowed to go out so our police visibility must be in these areas in order to strictly implement the basic rules such as wearing of face masks and physical distancing,” said Eleazar. 

According to Eleazar, the JTF CV Shield was looking at intensifying mobile checkpoints and random checking of private vehicles by personnel of the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) along with the deployment of motorcycle-riding patrolmen.

Metro Manila and some parts of mainland Luzon have breached 50 days or 7 weeks of enhanced community quarantine. 

Lower crime incidence

As it stands, the national police is already carrying out what it called a tighter enforcement of quarantine rules that they likened to martial law, where quarantine violators would no longer receive warning before arrest. 

This has not been without its lapses: during this time, police have shot a man despite onlookers telling them that he had mental health issues and was not armed, attempted to arrest a man in his own driveway, and barged into a private condominium after threatening to arrest members of its security detail.

Police leadership, along with the Department of Interior and Local Government, continue to defend these actions. 

Eleazar said in his statement that crime had been trending downwards in the days since enhanced community quarantine was declared, but that the resumption of economic activities could possibly embolden criminal elements to act.

In view of this, Eleazar said personnel of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines would also be tapped for visibility to be on the lookout for criminal elements. 

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

According to the JTF CV Shield's daily report on Sunday morning, 167,278 violators have been recorded since March 17, the first day of the enhanced community quarantine. Of this number, 47,257, or 28%, were arrested. 

President Rodrigo Duterte's last May 4 report to Congress also said that over 1,200 cases of violence against women and children were reported to the police in that same span of time.

“The challenge now is how to sustain it. So our kababayan should expect continuous stricter measures such as curfew during nighttime because this measure is not only to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but also as our preventive measure against criminal elements,” said Eleazar.

“We ask the public to gradually accept the fact that these strict measures are the new normal in terms of peace and order under the time of this pandemic,” he added.

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