People abusing quarantine passes 'to travel anywhere, anytime', task force claims
Members of the Manila Police District check for identification and proof of residence from motorists passing through the checkpoint along Roxas Boulevard in Manila as part of the implementation of the modified enhanced community quarantine that took effect on August 4, 2020..
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman
People abusing quarantine passes 'to travel anywhere, anytime', task force claims
Franco Luna ( - August 9, 2020 - 2:46pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 3:03 p.m.) — The task force enforcing quarantine protocols said Sunday that it has been receiving reports of people using their exemptions and identification cards "to deliberately violate the strict quarantine rule on non-essential travels."

Joint Task Force COVID Shield reminded the public on Sunday that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases allowed only essential workers to leave their homes during the modified ECQ.

No leisure establishments are open during MECQ and many restaurants had already shuttered due to losses even before the stricter quarantine was announced late last Sunday night. Metro Manila's local government units have also declared curfews to curtail movement at night.

The supposed disobedience has warranted even stricter rules to contain the movement of authorized persons outside residence — APORs — "based on the observation and reports from policemen manning the quarantine control points."

The task force added that the suspected abuses of community quarantine exemption "sometimes causes verbal confrontations at the quarantine control points."

Only essential movement allowed

Under the IATF's guidelines, a person must be working the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19 or  for "essetnial" industries permitted exempted from quarantine restrictions. They are only allowed out for work-related purposes.

People with quarantine passes are allowed out to get essential supplies like food and medicine.

"The main and only reason behind the exemption from community quarantine is for them to go to their places of work because the nature of their jobs is essential to provide the basic goods and services to our people under community quarantine, and for them to go back to their homes," explained Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, commander of the JTF COVID Shield.  

"However, we have been receiving reports from our personnel on the ground that there are some abuses committed since those given exemption is using it to travel anywhere they want and anytime they want which are basically violations of the existing quarantine rules," he added.

It is unclear where the APORs would be going during what is essentially a lockdown. 

Asked by reporters for data on the alleged abuse, Eleazar said in a mix of English and Filipino: "Info received and observation only...we don't have an inventory of cases." 

"Perhaps some other essential personnel thought that they were automatically classified as APOR even if their going outside is not work-related. Others are availing IATF ID cards through concerned industries even if they are not regular workers or part of the authorized workforce," he said. 

"It's still a significant subtraction in the unnecessary movement of people if they will stay at home," he added. 

Task force pushes for stricter enforcement

Over the past designations of community quarantine, the task force has consistently called for tighter enforcement of rules, particularly on the barangay level, to stop "stubborn" barangay folk that it "observed" on social media.

Earlier in the general community quarantine, members of the national police's Highway Patrol Group under the task force apprehended over 1,000 motorcycle riders who were back-riding with people who were not their romantic partners, which was prohibited by the IATF-EID. Some of them were arrested for "being disrespectful to the apprehending authorities." 

“It is clear that community quarantine exemption is given only for work-related purposes. The concept is the same with the issuance of quarantine passes which is issued by the Local Government Units for only one member of the family to go out of their homes only to buy essential goods,” said Eleazar.

“Therefore, they should not use this exemption to engage in travels that are not connected to their job because this is really unfair to the majority of our kababayan who are strictly abiding the government’s prohibition not to engage in non-essential travels in this time of pandemic,” he added.

An earlier survey by the Social Weather Stations in May, the first month under enhanced community quarantine, found that four out of five Filipinos left the house at least once and at most thrice in the week before the survey was conducted. Respondents said they did so for essentials, mainly food.

After first saying that it would deploy most of its cops at checkpoints along provincial borders, the task force earlier this week doubled back and announced that it would begin sending out more personnel in public areas to "compel" compliance with quarantine rules that surveys suggest people are already following.

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