Duterte urges police to 'have no qualms' in arresting those not wearing face masks

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday urged police to arrest citizens who fail to wear face masks in public amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"I have no qualms in arresting people who are not wearing [face] mask. It seems to be trivial, but during a time of pandemic, it can be a serious crime. You are transmitting virus, you are a carrier," Duterte said in a meeting with cabinet officials taped Monday but aired Tuesday morning.

"We'll have to ask our police to be more strict," he told Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.

"If you are brought to a police station and detained there, that will give you a lesson for all time."

He added that he hates to arrest people for a "mere violation," but sees such a move as necessary to ensure cooperation.

The chief executive also called out local governments, saying that "mayors have to do more."

"There are mayors who refuse to abide by the rules. You want COVID to slow down or stop, wear a mask or do not go out if you do not want to wear one. [Thats all, along with] social distancing. There is no other way that you can prevent COVID from transferring from one person to another."

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año told the president that he met with local officials along with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier Monday to talk about how to impose quarantine protocols more uniformly.

Just last week, doctor Tony Leachon, former adviser to the COVID-19 task force against COVID-19, revealed that he personally suggested to the president that the government provide face masks to poor Filipinos who may not be able to afford them.

"We think the poor don't behave but if they can't even buy food, what more masks? They want to wear masks, we have to provide access. We should shoulder the cost of the masks, particularly for the urban poor, because the middle class and upper class can afford it," Leachon told CNN Philippines in a mix of English and Filipino.

He added that the president seemed receptive to the idea and ordered his health secretary to look into it.

"Masks, this is what's really important. If you don't have any, I will try to buy as many as I can afford. We will give it to you, but wear it," Duterte told the public in a mix of English and Filipino.

However, he offered no further details on the initiative even as arrests of quarantine violators which have been flagged by lawmakers as "overzealous" and "disproportionate" are ongoing.

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 20, 2021 - 4:10pm

Other regions and provinces in the Philippines considered moderate and low-risk areas will be placed under general community quarantine starting May 1. Bookmark this page for updates. (Main image by The STAR/Edd Gumban)

November 20, 2021 - 4:10pm

The health department registers 1,474 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the national caseload to 2,824,499. 

  • New deaths: 205
  • New recoveries: 2,565
  • Total active cases: 22,070
November 19, 2021 - 4:05pm

The Department of Health reports an additional 1,485 COVID-19 infections, bringing the national tally to to 2,823,210.

  • New deaths: 277
  • New recoveries: 1,393
  • Total active cases: 23,200
November 18, 2021 - 4:26pm

The Department of Health registers 1,297 new COVID-19 cases, biringing the national caseload to 2,821,753.

  • New deaths: 305
  • New recoveries: 1,956
  • Total active cases: 23,158
November 10, 2021 - 4:07pm

The Department of Health registers 2,646 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the national tally to 2,809,311.

  • Active cases: 29,138 or 1.0% of the total
  • Deaths: 99, pushing the count to 44,665
  • Recoveries: 4,029 bringing the number to 2,735,508
November 9, 2021 - 4:11pm

The Department of Health logs 1,409 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the national tally to 2,806,694.

  • Active cases: 30,544 or 1.1% of the total
  • Deaths: 46, pushing the count to 44,567
  • Recoveries: 2,941 bringing the number to 2,731,583
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