Following appeals from local government units, the Philippine National Police will arrest more curfew violators during the COVID-19 coronavirus quarantine even as the number of offenders has reached over 40,000, Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said Sunday.
Speaking as commander of the Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield (JTF CV Shield), Eleazar said local chief executives also asked the PNP not to be lenient on violators of the curfew, which lasts from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. in most areas in the country, especially in Luzon.
“We will continue to arrest violators,” the PNP chief of directorial staff said in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV.
This developed as Malacañang has released a memorandum directing four government agencies to create a list of private establishments that could be taken over under the newly enacted Bayanihan Law or Republic Act.
The memo, issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on March 28, tasked the departments of Health, Transportation and Tourism and the Office of Civil Defense to create the list now.
Section 4(8) of the recently signed Bayanihan law allowed President Rodrigo Duterte to “direct the operations” of any privately-owned hospitals, medical facilities, passenger vessels, and other establishments that will be used to house health workers or serve as quarantine areas, relief distribution locations, or temporary medical facilities.
The JTF CV Shield, the enforcement arm of the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, said a total of 42,826 curfew violators were apprehended in the first 11 days of the enhanced community quarantine to fight COVID-19.
“The number of curfew violators will just continue to rise if we become lenient on them,” Eleazar said in a statement.
“This will definitely defeat the purpose of the declaration of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) which President Duterte approved purposely to contain the COVID-19,” he added.
Earlier, Eleazar said the enforcement will be “a little lenient” against curfew violators as police would allow them to go home after booking them, instead of detaining them until they posted bail, owing to the lack of jail facilities as well as government prosecutors that would attend to the filed cases.
The Department of Justice only has a limited number of personnel at this time, the police general explained, but the agency has now activated online inquest proceedings.
“[Offenders] will be brought to police stations for booking, and through electronic or online inquest proceedings, we will refer their cases to the skeleton force of the Office of the Prosecutor,” Eleazar said.
As for suitable jail facilities, Eleazar said PNP Chief General Archie Gamboa approved having a temporary detention center with enough space for violators to observe social distancing.
Gamboa also approved the task force’s recommendation to coordinate with local chief executives on proper disposition of arrested violators based on their respective ordinances.
“If the curfew violators will be released over a decision that the regular filing of the case will be done after the ECQ, curfew violators must be held for a maximum of 12 hours while being admonished, so as to deter them from repeating the offense,” Eleazar added.
Meanwhile, the DOH, DOT, DoTr and the OCD under the Department of Defense are directed “to submit to the Office of the President an inventory of all available or potential assets, and proposed guidelines to exercise such power,” Medialdea said in his memo issued Saturday.
“Such guidelines must conform with the relevant limits enshrined in Section 17, Article XII of the Constitution,” he added.
That section of the Charter explains that temporary taking over or directing the operations of privately-owned business is possible during a national emergency, “when the public interest so requires.”
Under the Bayanihan law, if the government decides to direct the operations of a particular facility, it must provide for compensation for damages or costs incurred “after the situation has stabilized or at the soonest time practicable.”
The President can only order takeover of operations as a last resort, if the owners “unjustifiably refuse” or signify they are no longer capable to manage operations during the coronavirus outbreak.
Duterte signed the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act of 2020” last week, giving him 30 special powers to deal with the pandemic.
Those who refuse to cooperate with the government may be penalized by imprisonment of two months or a fine of P10,000 up to P1 million, at the discretion of the court. With Francisco Tuyay
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