Task force creates Facebook page for complaints on quarantine violations

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Task force creates Facebook page for complaints on quarantine violations
Photo release shows members of the national police at an online meeting.
Release / JTF CV Shield

MANILA, Philippines — The quarantine enforcement arm of the coronavirus task force has created a Facebook channel to "facilitate" complaints from users as it moves to monitor social media for quarantine violations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The task force, which has already used "observations from social media" to justify its push for stricter enforcement in the past, first announced its intent to monitor social media earlier in September, adding that any content gathered can be used as evidence "to warn, to fine and to summon the people concerned in coordination with the barangay officials concerned."

“We in the JTF COVID Shield believe that most of our netizens have already come across with total disregard of having quarantine violations in their accounts through the uploaded photos and videos of their Facebook friends. And we share disappointment and anger against those people because it is really unfair that most of our kababayan are strictly abiding by the rules while there are people who even dare to flaunt their defiance by posting them in the social media,” said Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, task force commander. 

“Through the Facebook account of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, they will be given a platform to immediately report to us any blatant violation of quarantine rules such as engaging in drinking sessions, large parties and celebration, and even illegal gambling in public places. All they need to do is to send us the photos and videos and we will take care of the rest,” he added.

According to Eleazar, the official Facebook account of the JTF COVID Shield can be used as an additional avenue for the public to report any violations they see on social media, aside from the existing Facebook accounts of local police stations and other police units.

He called the move an "effort to empower the people not only to help the government in the enforcement of the quarantine rules but also in protecting themselves and their community from hardheaded people who defy the protocols on observation of minimum health safety standard."

NPC: Don't invade privacy when monitoring social media 

After the task force's initial announcement, the National Privacy Commission in a separate statement urged them to be judicious in their monitoring and considerate of data privacy ramifications. 

"In keeping communities safe in this pandemic, leads and evidence gathered from social media and other digital tools to enforce the law must be legally obtained...By monitoring social media, the police must use techniques that are not privacy-intrusive. Law enforcers should be trained to use the medium effectively and reliably to build the confidence and trust of the public, especially netizens," it said.

Eleazar assured the public that the identity and other information of those who would report quarantine violations in social media will be protected and that no violation of privacy will be made.

“The PNP will not monitor private social media accounts because first, it is illegal and second, our local police stations do not have the capability to do it,” said PLt.Gen. Eleazar.

“What we would monitor are blatant violations of quarantine rules such as drinking on the streets and other public places, large parties and celebrations, and illegal gambling such as tupada that are posted by netizens out of frustration for violation of quarantine rules, those reported directly by the netizens to the police through the social media accounts of various police stations and PNP units, and those who would go viral in the social media,” he added.





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