President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the police and traffic enforcers to arrest motorists violating the Enhanced Community Quarantine following a noticeable increase in the number of private vehicles on EDSA and other major thoroughfares, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Wednesday.
Nograles, spokesman for the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging and Infectious Diseases, said the order came after Duterte received reports from the Philippine National Police that more than 108,000 motorists have violated the lockdown guidelines a month after the ECQ was imposed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Members of the PNP Highway Patrol Group and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority stopped a number of motorists on major thoroughfares for violating the lockdown and confiscated licenses and issued citation tickets Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
“The MMDA and the PNP-HPG went full force on Wednesday after a large volume of vehicles continued to travel along EDSA amid the enhanced community quarantine,” Nograles said.
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He said the measure is meant to stop all public transportation and strictly enforced home quarantine protocols as work for the majority of the region’s residents was suspended.
“The goal is to prevent the movement of the public to safeguard the health of those in Metro Manila and neighboring areas,” he said.
The President also tapped the Armed Forces of the Philippines to “ensure effective and orderly implementation” of the ECQ.
Nograles said the PNP’s Highway Patrol Group will now inspect private vehicles to determine whether drivers and passengers belong to the list of Authorized Persons Outside of Residence (APOR) or not.
If the driver or any of the passengers is unauthorized, HPG will issue LTO-TOP or MMDA-OVR tickets against drivers of private vehicles.
Vehicles exempted from the lockdown are all businesses, services, and activities related to the transportation of food, medicine, and services for health workers and mass media.
During the arrests, Tuesday and Wednesday, drivers of private vehicles and motorcycles were asked to move to the side of EDSA for questioning. Some motorists presented their barangay quarantine ID passes during the inspection.
HPG director Brig. Gen. Eliseo Cruz said the monitoring will focus on areas where there is a build-up of vehicles. He added that checkpoints will change locations depending on the traffic situation.
Cruz reminded motorists that those caught violating quarantine measures will be penalized with a fine.
MMDA chief traffic enforcer Edison Nebrija Jr. earlier called on Metro Manila mayors and their respective traffic management offices to act against erring motorists and address the noticeable increase in the volume of vehicles plying EDSA. He said the unusual traffic gridlock was observed in the areas of Balintawak and Nepa Q markets over the weekend.
The MMDA recently said vehicles carrying medical supplies and food items are exempted from the truck ban implemented along EDSA and other roads in Metro Manila.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government , meanwhile, directed local government units and the PNP to strictly enforce the closure of non-essential business establishments while the ECQ is in force.
“Make sure that business establishments that are not allowed to operate under IATF guidelines remain closed. The ECQ is still in full force and effect. There is no partial lifting whatsoever. Our country will heal as one if and only the government, the private sector, and the people stick to the strict enforcement of ECQ,” DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said in a news release.
Several reports have reached the DILG regarding the opening of some non-essential commercial establishments in some areas, he said.
“If there is resistance or disobedience to authorities, the PNP has the authority to make arrests,” he said, adding that they could face a jail term of up to six months and a fine of up to P100,000.
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After reprimanding erring barangay officials, the DILG on Wednesday said that it has issued show-cause orders against three provincial governors and two mayors for violating the ECQ guidelines issued by the national government.
Año said violation of quarantine directives issued by the IATF and the DILG will not go unnoticed.
“As directed by the President himself, we will not go easy on local government officials who will violate the prescribed directives during the ECQ, that’s the mandate of the DILG—local government supervision. Therefore, we have no choice but to issue show cause orders and file the necessary charges against them, when necessary,” Año said.
These local chief executives were given 48 hours from receipt to submit a written explanation stating clearly why no administrative cases should be filed against them for negligence, dereliction of duty, and violation of the Bayanihan To Heal as One Act.
Failure to do so will result in an automatic administrative case to be filed before the Office of the Ombudsman.
The said officials may also face criminal charges from the National Bureau of Investigation of the Department of Justice.
In an interview with radio dzMM, an advisor to the President said malls should only partially resume operations after the Luzon-wide lockdown is lifted.
Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said restaurants in malls should only offer take-out and delivery services when the lockdown ends because diners cannot observe physical distancing in cramped spaces.
Concepcion said he also urged the President to resume government infrastructure projects and all manufacturing, even for non-essential products.
The government should also allow MRT and LRT operations and public transport in provinces to resume, he said.
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