Police urged to observe health protocols in enforcing them, punishing 'violators'
Police personnel enforce a "hard" lockdown in part of the City of Manila on April 22, 2020.
The STAR/Edd Gumban, file

Police urged to observe health protocols in enforcing them, punishing 'violators'

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - July 12, 2020 - 4:03pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police should be mindful of government health protocols, especially when enforcing them on citizens, a famers' group said.

In a statement issued Sunday afternoon, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) expressed alarm over the rising number of cases within the Philippine National Police, saying they may inadvertently spread the disease.

"We have seen how the PNP and other agencies under the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) acted irresponsibly in violation of minimum health and quarantine protocols," said Danilo Ramos, national chairperson of KMP.

PNP coronavirus tally

As of the PNP Health Services' latest update on Saturday evening, 19 new coronavirus cases were recorded among the agency's ranks, with 11 coming from the National Capital Region Police Office.

The night before, 38 cases were also added, with 32 coming from the same district. 

The PNP's tally stands at 1,044 confirmed cases, 1,364 suspect cases, and 651 probable cases of COVID-19. This also makes up 2% of the Department of Health's 54,222 documented cases, a number that has been steadily rising. 

Cases involving national police elements made up 1.6% of the total nationwide cases recorded by health authorities by end-June and later went up to 1.9% by the first week of July. This also coincided with the deployment of 250 forces to assist in the enhanced community quarantine of Cebu City, which has since been called the country's coronavirus epicenter. 

"With the manner in which COVID-19 cases are spreading within the ranks of the PNP, we have to question how they are carrying out health protocols and precautions to prevent the spread of the virus," Ramos added. 

The PNP actually has its own coronavirus testing labs in its headquarters in Camp Crame and is in the process of fast-tracking a second one in Central Visayas.

Existing violations

Although the police are tasked with enforcing health protocols like social distancing and the mandatory wearing of face masks, it has not been as stringent at enforcing these rules on themselves.

Perhaps the most prominent one is that of Police Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas, Metro Manila's top cop, who held a birthday gathering that he called a mañanita. Both police leadership and President Duterte himself have justified the flagrant breach of quarantine rules and even cleared Sinas altogether. He has asked the public to move on. 

Warrantless arrests by the police have also resulted in detainees being "cramped in vehicles and inside overloaded jails", along with a number of procedural violations alleged by those arrested. These cases include the arrest of 20 Pride Month protesters and the case of six jeepney drivers, two of whom have since tested positive for coronavirus. 

READ: Students allege harassment, procedural violations in Iligan City protest arrests

Personnel of the Quezon City Police District along with the Quezon City Department of Public Order and Safety staged a "One Time, Big Time" operation tightening enforcement of mandatory face mask-wearing protocols all over the city, yielding over 1,000 violators who were brought to the Amoranto Stadium where QCPD "processed them for proper disposition."

"The police have also arrested thousands of so-called quarantine violators, further filling already brimming cells, further endangering mass infection," KMP wrote in its statement. 

Binay, CHR to PNP: Follow your own rules 

Sen. Nancy Binay previously called out the national police and reminded it of its role in a national pandemic, pointing to the same cases as "violations of basic health and institutional protocols."

"The PNP should look at how their staff can avoid COVID-19 even those they encounter. Not just in patrol cars or in the precincts. What should be their protocol to keep everyone safe in the new normal," she said in a statement in a mix of English and Filipino.

"For some reason, the police have become over-zealous in enforcing public health directions to the point that they have put to risk the health of people, and violated basic rights," she noted.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights last week expressed concern that the arrests made by police amid the novel coronavirus pandemic "appear to violate the government's own health and safety guidelines," pointing out that physical distancing guidelines, in particular, seem to be disregarded during arrests.

"We urge the law enforcers to adhere to government’s own health protocols and serve as good examples for the rest of the citizens to follow," the commission's spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.

"At the same time, this reminder comes at a time when the Philippine National Police also notes a rise in the case of police officers testing positive for [COVID-19]. It would then be to the benefit of our police officers to help curb the trend of possible more infections by being more conscious of their actions," she added.

As of the latest update from the Department of Health, the country's total caseload stands at 54,222. — with a report from Bella Perez-Rubio

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