1,152 quarantine violators arrested

Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star
1,152 quarantine violators arrested
Of the 1,152, 918 were from Luzon.
Miguel de Guzman, file

MANILA, Philippines (Corrected 7:48 a.m.) — Up to 1,152 people were apprehended by police for breaching quarantine protocols, after President Duterte defended Metro Manila police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas from criticisms he received for supposedly violating lockdown measures during his birthday gathering on May 8.

Data from the Philippine National Police (PNP) released yesterday showed that the 1,152 were apprehended beginning Wednesday.

Of the 1,152, 918 were from Luzon. The PNP said 153 offenders were caught in Mindanao while 81 were from the Visayas.

Since March 17, a total of 177,540 people have been accosted by state forces for allegedly defying quarantine protocols, 52,535 of whom were detained.

Duterte on Tuesday night said he would not remove Sinas from his post despite the controversy brought about by his birthday celebration that was apparently a violation of the protocol against mass gatherings during the enhanced community quarantine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The birthday gathering did not sit well with the public, most of whom have been forced to stay at home as part of quarantine protocols.

There was also a public outcry over the alleged double standard of the PNP in enforcing the rules.

“It’s my responsibility. But I will not order his transfer. He stays there until further orders,” Duterte said.

The PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) last week filed charges against

Sinas and 18 other police officials for supposedly violating quarantine protocols.

Renato Reyes, secretary general of leftist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, criticized Duterte for going easy on Sinas while ordinary citizens were arrested on sight for violating quarantine guidelines.

By protecting Sinas, the President showed there is no accountability if you are in power, he said in a statement.

The PNP, for its part, welcomed Duterte’s decision retaining Sinas at his post.

“We bow to the better judgment of the Chief Executive on matters of relief and designation of police commanders to key posts,” PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said.

PNP checkpoints

The PNP will set up modified checkpoints nationwide to ease traffic in areas under a lenient general community quarantine (GCQ).

The PNP first implemented the strategy in Metro Manila, which transitioned to a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) after two months of stringent lockdown measures to contain the

COVID-19 outbreak.

“The modified checkpoint will also be implemented in other parts of the country.” PNP deputy chief for operations Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said yesterday in a statement.

The police imposed the strategy in Metro Manila to ease traffic congestion after some business establishments reopened during the MECQ, although in a limited capacity.

Under the new scheme, Eleazar explained that policemen and soldiers manning quarantine control checkpoints have the option to allow vehicles to pass freely when there is a traffic build-up.

There are about 4,000 police checkpoints set up nationwide to restrict unnecessary travel.

The situation is different when Metro Manila was under ECQ, wherein all vehicles passing at checkpoints were inspected.

“With the downgrading of community quarantine status in almost all areas in the country, there is a significant increase of motor vehicles everywhere,” he said, pointing out it would be impractical to check every vehicle because it would only cause traffic congestion.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said localized lockdown may focus on identified critical zones such as barangays and subdivisions as the country transitions to more lenient levels of community quarantine amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the government is looking at “zoning” that focuses on targeted areas instead of implementing whole-city lockdowns.

Año said that it would be up to the local government units to declare lockdowns in areas under their jurisdiction.

Under critical zones in the localized lockdown, Año said it would be stricter than the enhanced community quarantine as no one in the affected neighborhood would be allowed to go out.

Strict measures would also be implemented in the containment zones or areas near the critical areas where there are positive COVID cases.

Only the national government has the authority to modify the community quarantine levels in cities and provinces, which are currently at either modified enhanced or a general community quarantine. — with Romina Cabrera


(Editor's note: An earlier version of this article reported that 918 quarantine violators were apprehended in the National Capital Region. This has been corrected to Luzon.)


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