PNP deploys additional 150 SAF troops for Cebu ECQ enforcement

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
PNP deploys additional 150 SAF troops for Cebu ECQ enforcement
File photo shows members of the PNP's Special Action Forces.
The STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — Two companies of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) will be deployed to Cebu City to assist in the enforcement of the city's enhanced community quarantine amid a spike in cases of coronavirus, the quarantine enforcement arm of the country's COVID-19 task force said.

The additional force, composed of 150 commandos, will be supplied with armored vehicles and accompanied by three senior officers from the agency's Integrated Police Operations to facilitate coordination with police leadership.

“Mobility assets of SAF will also be deployed in Cebu City that include Multi-Purpose Armored Vehicles similar to what we used in the implementation of ECQ in Metro Manila,” said Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, commander of the JTF COVID Shield.

"The CentCom is also using their air assets over Cebu City to check on observance of physical distancing...We have already coordinated with the Philippine Coast Guard and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the deployment of SAF personnel and their mobility assets,” he added.

According to the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, while soldiers were already deployed in Cebu City and nearby areas, the Armed Forces of the Philippines' central command has also committed more personnel and assistance to enforce ECQ in Cebu City.

This comes despite the recent cluster of new coronavirus cases and even deaths within the PNP's ranks, most of which were from Central Visayas.

The latest fatality in the PNP was a policeman from Cebu.

'Pasaway' narrative parroted 

Eleazar also said that the deployment of the elite commandos was deemed necessary in order to compel local residents from unnecessarily going out of their homes and wearing face masks when in essential tasks such as buying food supplies and medicines.

According to the JTF CV Shield, government officials in a recent trip to Cebu observed that local residents "are not strictly following the quarantine rules as they saw people going out of their homes, not wearing face masks and not observing the physical distancing."

Earlier on in the pandemic, rights and healthcare advocates pointed out that the administration's response to the outbreak perpetuated a misplaced and pronounced militarism—coupled with a narrative that rising COVID-19 cases were due to rising Filipinos being "pasaway" or stubborn—in a time when medical solutions are needed. 

RELATED: Government banks on 'discipline' as likely shift to GCQ nears'War' narrative in COVID-19 crisis fails to empower Filipinos, groups say

"The deployment of SAF has been proven effective in forcing residents of Metro Manila since the third week of April to stay in their houses. SAF commandos are known to be strict in enforcing the quarantine rules which subsequently compelled hardheaded residents to stay in their houses," the task force's statement read. 

It added that Police Maj. Gen. Amando Empiso, SAF director, "expressed confidence that they would duplicate their success on ECQ implementation in Metro Manila in Cebu City, saying the SAF deployment is necessary in order to help contain the spread of the coronavirus and eventually save as many residents of Cebu City from infection."

“I have full trust and confidence on my men in accomplishing the tasks given to them. This is our way of helping the people of Cebu City and nearby areas in their fight against COVID-19. And this is a way of showing the people of Cebu that we are with them in winning this battle,” said Empiso.



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