Cebu City told: Soldiers and SAF on your side, to keep you inside

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Cebu City told: Soldiers and SAF on your side, to keep you inside
Photo shows members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force.
Release / PNP PIO

MANILA, Philippines — The deployment of Special Action Force commandos is a necessary and “tried-and-tested formula” in place to contain the movement of people, the quarantine enforcement arm of the government’s coronavirus task force said.

At least 150 SAF commandos along with armed vehicles were deployed in Cebu City to strictly enforce ECQ rules. Before this, an augmentation force of 100 police personnel was already sent to Metro Cebu for the same reason.

The military’s central command also deployed soldiers and assets of its own.  

In a statement issued Saturday evening, Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, Commander of the JTF COVID Shield, said that the heightened presence of soldiers and SAF commandos had earlier been effective in significantly reducing the number of quarantine violators when Metro Manila and some parts of Luzon were still under enhanced community quarantine. 

“The deployment of police commandos and soldiers here in Cebu City is not a militarization as some people would describe it, and therefore, is not a wrong approach,” said Eleazar.

According to the JTF CV Shield commander, the deployment of additional SAF commandos and soldiers is necessary in ensuring that people of Cebu City would stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel.

"Rather, this is a tried-and-tested formula in the enforcement of quarantine rules same as what happened in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon when we started deploying police commandos, soldiers and their mobility assets," he added. 

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.

'Not a militarization'

The SAF is the elite arm of the national police, and its members are known to be among the most well-trained police personnel in the country.

When members of the same were first deployed in Metro Manila, Eleazar was quoted as saying: "Our SAF men have the authority to arrest violators of ECQ guidelines, so please do not test their patience."

“We believe that the presence of our SAF commandos will further compel hardheaded people to behave and follow the ECQ because our SAF are tough and strict when it comes to discipline,” he added. 

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

At the onset of the community quarantine in Metro Manila, critics 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. 

This, while Police Gen. Archie Gamboa, PNP chief, also said that quarantine violators would no longer be warned before they are arrested, likening the style of police enforcement to martial law. 

“There will be no more warning for ECQ violators. Instead, arrest and inquest procedures will be applied to cases of violations of Republic Act 11469,” Gamboa said then in a virtual presser, referring to the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the law that handed President Duterte sweeping special powers but has since expired. 

Cases of police personnel violating protocols have been piling up amid the enforcement of both the general and enhanced community quarantines. 

RELATED: 'By the book': A look at quarantine incidents and police operational proceduresStudents allege harassment, procedural violations in Iligan City protest arrests

“We are not your enemy. We are on the same side in fighting the real enemy which is the coronavirus. While we do our share in fighting the coronavirus by taking every street and every border as our frontline, we expect the people to do their fair share by protecting their homes as their own frontline. This is our battle plan, and this is how we will win this fight,” said Eleazar.

"The strong presence of policemen and soldiers here is neither meant to scare the people of Cebu City nor curtail their rights. We are here because it is necessary, we are here to help, we are here to protect the people of Cebu City, and we are here to strengthen our frontline against the spread of COVID-19," he added. 




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