The government warned Friday that police would arrest more violators of the Luzon-wide lockdown that was imposed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
“We will surely arrest many people,” Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año told radio dzMM Friday.
He said more police would be deployed to man checkpoints and to crack down on illegal cockfighting matches, gambling and other quarantine violations.
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Philippine National Police chief Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa, meanwhile, said there would be a day of reckoning for all lawbreakers, and said law enforcers were ready to impose tougher measures against violators of the Enhanced Community Quarantine.
“Maybe some violators feel they can get away with our enforcement of quarantine rules and local ordinances, but only because we are not under ideal conditions to detain all law offenders, except to complete the mandatory requirements of documentation and booking,” Gamboa said. “Trust me, their brush with the law today will not go unpunished.”
So far, he said the police have reacted with compassion and said they would continue to be reasonable and fair.
“But because so many people are willfully violating government orders to remain indoors, their bold acts of disobedience are making containment efforts against the virus less effective. Worse and more troublesome for the police, it is taking its toll on police personnel manning the quarantine control points who risk exposure to unusually heavy crowding of unauthorized persons,” Gamboa said.
At present, there have been 65 COVID-19 cases among PNP personnel, 40 of whom remain in sick bay and 14 of whom are under home quarantine. Eight have recovered and three have died.
The PNP Highway Patrol Group and the Metro Manila Development Authority are now cracking down on unauthorized travel, he said.
In coordination with local government units, PNP line units are also instructed to launch a crackdown on illegal activities that constitute a violation of rules on physical distancing and gathering of persons, including illegal cockfights, card games, and mahjong and drinking sessions in public places.
READ: Prolonged ECQ an option—Palace
Año said LGUs have been ordered, too to be very strict and impose penalties on all violators of the lockdown.
He added that local government officials and village chiefs found violating quarantine protocols will be arrested.
Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield commander, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, said the police force are ready to strictly enforce the lockdown.
On Friday, the Taguig City police said it arrested 376 individuals violating the Enhanced Community Quarantine policy imposed by the government.
Most of those apprehended were unauthorized persons outside residence while 67 minors were caught violating the curfew ordinance.
Fourteen other persons were reprimanded for violating the social distancing protocol.
The city government reminded residents that anyone caught in violation of the city ordinance for the first time must provide community service for at least three hours.
As of April 16, Taguig had 174 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with the addition of five new cases Thursday.
“With one death and one recovery, the total is now 12 deaths and 19 recoveries,” the Taguig City public information office said.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases met Friday but did not discuss a “total lockdown” proposal, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.
Nograles issued the statement a day after Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said a total lockdown is an option, in case the government fails to flatten the curve in the growth of new COVID-19 infections.
The Philippines has so far 5,660 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 362 fatalities and 435 recoveries.
A total lockdown would prevent people from going out of their homes and mandates the closure of all public establishments.
The ECQ, on the other hand, limits public movements to accessing basic necessities.
Nograles said Roque was perhaps thinking of stricter measures to fight COVID-19.
The small group tasked by Duterte to assess the government’s response to COVID-19 is expected to come up with recommendations on the ECQ’s fate by Monday.
“We will discuss what that possible scenario will be, what are the pros and cons, what we are ready to allow, what will be the new do’s and don’ts, what will be the new guidelines after April 30,” he said.
The final decision, however, would still come from Duterte, Nograles said.
“Ultimately, the President will make a decision on our recommendations,” he said.
Nograles also appealed again for public cooperation, considering that Luzon-wide ECQ expires on April 30.
He said it would be more difficult for IATF-EID to come up with a decision if there are people who continue to violate the quarantine protocols.
“It makes it easier for us to make the decision because everybody is cooperating,” Nograles said. “If they don’t follow the rules, if they don’t cooperate, it destroys all the assumptions. Then the model is also destroyed.”