More cops sent out as police commanders told to 'recalibrate' security, health measures
Photo dated April 28 shows members of Philippine Army joining the distribution of relief goods from the Asian Development Bank in Batasan Hills in Quezon City.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
More cops sent out as police commanders told to 'recalibrate' security, health measures
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - October 18, 2020 - 11:26am

MANILA, Philippines — Police commanders have been directed to recalibrate their security and health measures with eased restrictions allowing more Filipinos to leave their houses, the quarantine enforcement arm of the government's coronavirus task force said. 

In a statement issued Saturday evening, Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, commander of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, said that the task force directed local police commanders to strengthen coordination with their respective local government units.

In its latest meeting earlier this week, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases adjusted the age restriction for leaving the house to 15 to 65 years old and eased rules on crossing borders while more people were included in the list of the Authorized Persons Outside Residence and exemption from curfew.

Local governments were also given the discretion to implement their own rules depending on the prevailing situation in their respective areas.

READ: Has pandemic response been recalibrated or is MECQ a repeat of the same policies?

“The role of the LGUs is now very essential now that the restrictions were further eased. It is important then for our police commanders to initiate moves to maximize the use of force multipliers such as barangay tanods (watchmen), security guards and the public order and safety personnel of the LGUs,” said Eleazar.

“They should work closely and constantly under one objective, which is to ensure that the protection of the public against the coronavirus infection will not be sacrificed on our way to the gradual normalization of our economic and daily activities,” he also said.

Eleazar also appealed to the public to always exercise precaution in going out by strictly and properly observing the minimum health safety standard protocols being implemented by the government.

'Recalibration' of measures?

When medical societies called for a "medical time-out" in July and urged the national government to rethink its approach to the pandemic, the manifesto penned by doctors also called for an end to "Duterte-style lockdowns," which they slammed as "unscientific" and "oppressive."

"A militarist handling instead of a medical approach to the pandemic wreaks fear among the people and proliferates human rights violations—while doing little, if not nothing, to curb the number of cases and spread of disease," the Coalition for People's Right to Health said then.

In response, modified enhanced community quarantine was eventually implemented. Government officials later in the MECQ claimed that the coronavirus response had already been recalibrated, although no significant differences were documented. 

READ: 'Medical quarantine, not ECQ': Health professionals call for change in 'militaristic' lockdowns

Since then, however, the JTF CV Shield has only further heightened police presence in and around Metro Manila, sending out cops to business districts, transportation hubs, and even monitoring social media for quarantine violations. Police personnel has also been sent to barangays to "make homes and communities more conducive for online learning." 

With the JTF's latest pronouncement, it is not clear what substantial changes will come out of this newest recalibration, if at all. 

Although speaking of the recalibration of its security and health safety measures, the joint task force in its statement relied on much of the same narrative of discipline and enforcement, directing police commanders to look into "beefing up police visibility in business districts and in other areas frequented by the people."

"It is important that our commanders on the ground must re-strategize in order to continue ensuring the protection of the people. We should make sure that all our kababayan will continue to follow the rules not only for their safety but also the protection of everybody from this virus,” Eleazar said.

READ: 'War' narrative in COVID-19 crisis fails to empower Filipinos, groups say

COVID-19 JOINT TASK FORCE COVID SHIELD JTF CV SHIELD NOVEL CORONAVIRUS PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE PNP
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