Medical Zonas

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - April 16, 2021 - 12:00am

Many Filipinos 50 years old and above would surely be familiar with the police term “ZONA” or Oplan Zona. It’s different from the SONA of the President but instead refers to a police operation where they swoop down on a pre-determined neighborhood or barangay, round up all the men or suspicious looking individuals, often in the middle of the night, and spend the entire evening investigating and conducting background checks on every person to see who has a criminal record, an outstanding warrant or is not a registered or known resident of the community. This was an anti-criminality practice even before Martial Law, was continued during Martial Law and used to be a regular operation of the police before the arrival of COVID-19.

Given the house-to-house efficiency of “Zonas” it might be worth considering conducting Medical Zonas all over NCR Plus. The idea would be for the IATF/DOH to target areas or barangays with high incidence of COVID-19, conduct house to house medical screening and recording of residents and test individuals who are potential carriers such as those who travel daily, go to work and have a high degree of movement or engagement with people outside their homes. You don’t have to test every one in the family or household but workers and travelers would be a logical first choice for testing since they are the ones with greater potential for exposure.

The same could actually be done for factories and offices in order to determine the levels of safety, risks for contamination and preparedness of companies to react to a COVID case in the work place as well as their support for workers that might get infected in the work place. Just like the police type of Zona, a Medical Zona in barangays or factories and work places will serve as a wake up call or reminder on how bad the COVID-19 infections are. When you bring the matter to the home it becomes personal and not just something they watch on TV or media. Believe it or not there are still individuals who are not sure how bad the COVID-19 pandemic is. Once they become part of a “Zona” chances are they will think otherwise.

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Not very long ago, I commented on my TV program AGENDA on Cignal TV that police officers and local government security forces or barangay tanods should avoid or at least think twice before imposing corporal punishment on violators of the anti-COVID health protocols or of curfews. I warned that in the event that a violator suffers a health related episode, stroke or even death, the person responsible will surely suffer the consequences. Well, no one seems to take such warnings seriously, in fact many enforcers or policemen are convinced that the only way to get people to be disciplined or follow “the law” is to physically punish or verbally abuse violators.

I know of many incidents where the authorities on patrol think nothing of the verbal abuse or the cussing they rain down on violators as they treat these petty offenders the same as real life criminals. But as I warned, so it has happened that on two occasions the arrested individuals either died or was killed. Violator #1 Darren Penaredondo was arrested in Gen. Trias, Cavite and was allegedly made to perform strenuous exercises as punishment for violating the curfew. When you combine the stress from the arrest, the loss of sleep being detained, then being made to perform a series of continuous physical exertion for several minutes, what were the chances that the individual concerned would have some form of a medical episode? As it turned out the curfew violator collapsed at home and was dead two days later.

So now what happens? Of course, the officials in that barangay will be pointing fingers at each other, they will now be busy stitching up their stories and account of the incident until a full-blown investigation happens courtesy of the DILG and the PNP.

The second recent incident turns out to be more cut and dry where barangay tanods beat up a curfew violator for attempting to resist arrest or detention. Ermani Lumban Jimenez was arrested in Barangay Turbina, Calamba City and ended up dead after being beaten by barangay tanods who claim that the individual tried to escape and slipped on the pavement and hit his head, resulting in death. The last time I heard that was in the accounts of Nelson Mandela in South Africa, where many political prisoners were listed as dead after slipping or falling down the stairs!

Hopefully some good Samaritan legal group like FLAG or the Philippine Bar Association would offer to handle the case for the deceased party and then we will know who will be left out to dry by local officials. Not only have I warned law enforcers and local security personnel not to be over zealous in performing their jobs, I’ve also warned the lot not to assume or introduce power or authority that they don’t have or is not granted to them.

Last but not the least, many people in society have constantly reminded our law enforcers to be faithful to the citizenry and not to some appointed or elected part-time politician who will only be in office for three to seven years. Anybody who says they have your back is a liar! They will always deny anything that will drag them, implicate them or embarrass them. Local and national officials change every three or seven years, but any policeman, soldier or tanod who makes the mistake of committing reckless imprudence resulting to homicide will have a minimum term of six years to life – not in office but in jail!

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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