Authorities should use “common sense” in deciding who are allowed to pass checkpoints and in imposing discipline on violators of the Enhanced Community Quarantine implemented to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Palace said Wednesday.
READ: PNP: No more warning, just arrest ECQ violators
Without guidelines for the specific conduct of ECQ enforcers on the local and national levels, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said that while President Rodrigo Duterte’s order was to enforce the ECQ strictly in their respective localities, authorities “should still follow the law.”
This developed as the Philippine National Police said it will tighten the implementation of quarantine rules, as the number of police officers afflicted with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) rose to 89.
“We need everybody’s cooperation as we strictly impose the law in this time of national emergency,” PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said in a statement late Tuesday.
Roque said those who made mistakes while enforcing ECQ restrictions will be disciplined.
According to existing ECQ guidelines issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, LGUs are merely “charged with the promotion of health and safety within their jurisdiction.”
“LGUs are strictly enjoined to use the various issuances of the National Government as guidelines and may not overextend its implementation nor leave out its explicit provisions,” the IATF directive last March 24, two weeks into the lockdown of Luzon, says.
The general rule is mandatory home quarantine for people living in ECQ areas, except for certain frontliners and except when leaving home to buy basic necessities.
Police and local government officials across the region have varied widely in punishing ECQ violations, from merely confiscating persons' quarantine passes and making them exercise on basketball courts to imprisoning men in dog cages and using physical violence.
The Palace statement came after a fish vendor was beaten by members of a Quezon City task force and arrested for not wearing a face mask.
READ: ‘Search for drugs vs. ECQ violators’
The city government said it would investigate the incident, which was captured on video and posted online.
“I believe this incident in Quezon City will be investigated fairly by Mayor Joy Belmonte and a punishment will be imposed on the barangay officials if they are proven guilty,” he said.
Video footage showed members of the task force hitting the vendor with a piece of wood and dragging him towards a city government van.
Quezon City legal officer Niño Casimiro said the vendor was brought to a government hospital for a medical checkup. Based on the medico-legal report, the victim had “abrasions.”
The Commission on Human Rights and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said human rights must be upheld during the ECQ period, which is expected to lapse on May 15.
Meanwhile, Roque also urged police, military, and local officials at checkpoints to allow the unhampered passage of basic necessities such as food, medicine and medical supplies.
“Although we know the rules, we have to see this on a case to case basis. Those who need medical attention should be allowed to pass through. Let’s use our common sense,” he said.
On Sunday, a delivery van carrying medical oxygen tanks was barred by a purok leader from exiting a checkpoint in Quezon City.
Based on the video uploaded on Facebook by Gina Romanos, the supplier, she and her live-in partner showed a quarantine pass and their Department of Trade and Industry, Bureau of Internal Revenue and mayor’s permits to be able to pass through the checkpoint in Zytec Riosa Compound in Barangay Pasong Tamo but purok leader Noel Talon still stopped them from leaving.
Romanos said the purok leader told them that they are still not authorized to operate and to travel during the ECQ.
With the help of some barangay officials, Romanos said they were able to pass through and successfully deliver the oxygen tank to the patient.
Romanos, whose family has been a supplier of medical oxygen tanks for 10 years, said they will file charges against the purok leader.
As of Tuesday noon, PNP Health Service director Brig. Gen. Herminio Tadeo Jr. said there were 559 suspect and 199 probable COVID-19 cases in the police force.
The Palace on Wednesday said all areas that have been omitted from the list of places under ECQ will now be under General Community Quarantine beginning May 1.
This developed after the IATF-EID revised the roster of areas under GCQ.
In an interview with ANC, Roque said Capiz, Aklan, Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro, Iloilo City and Aurora have been removed from the list of areas that are still under ECQ until May 15.
“I confirm that these areas will be on GCQ effective May 1,” Roque said.
The IATF-EID on Monday approved Resolution 29, which extends the ECQ in Metro Manila; Central Luzon, except Aurora; Calabarzon (Region 4-A); Pangasinan; Benguet; Baguio City; Iloilo; Cebu; Cebu City; and Davao City until May 15.
The original recommendation of IATF-EID, which was approved by President Duterte on April 23, was to place Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Pangasinan, Benguet, Albay, Catanduanes, Davao del Norte, Davao City, Oriental Mindoro, Antique, Iloilo, Cebu, and Cebu City under ECQ until May 15.
Roque said other areas that are not on the revised list would also be under GCQ from May 1 to 15.
Public movement in areas under GCQ is less restricted.
People living in areas under ECQ are still required to observe strict home quarantine unless they are among the exempted individuals who can go out of their homes.
This is meant to stop the further transmission COVID-19, which has so far infected 7,958 individuals in the country.
The imposition, lifting, or extension of the quarantine in provinces, highly urbanized cities, and independent component cities will rest on the IATF-EID starting May 16.
Provincial governors have the authority to impose ECQ in component cities, municipalities, and villages upon the concurrence of their respective regional inter-agency task groups.
Roque said the IATF will release guidelines for the limited resumption of public transportation under a GCQ on Thursday.
“There will be a partial reopening of transport because while industries are open, we can’t have people traveling without transport. It will be finalized today. By tomorrow (Thursday), we will find out the final guideline,” Roque said in an interview over GMA TV.
Under the GCQ, Roque said the IATF has recommended the resumption of public transport “but in a reduced capacity.”
Jeepneys may remain banned under the GCQ since it would be difficult to maintain physical distancing while buses may be allowed for as long as passengers are seated on “every other seat,” he said.
The IATF-EID is also eyeing the resumption of limited operations of the LRT, MRT and the Philippine National Railways.
Public transport remains suspended under the ECQ, which was extended in Metro Manila and some areas until May 15.
The IATF has also recommended the 50 percent to 100 percent reopening of select establishments “subject to minimum health standards” in areas under GCQ, Roque said.
Starting Friday, the provinces of Capiz, Aklan, Davao del Norte, Davao del Oro, and Aurora, as well as Iloilo City will be under GCQ.
Several sectors, including malls and commercial centers, will be allowed to reopen subject to strict hygiene standards.
However, Roque said mall owners will be required to keep their air-conditioning temperatures warm--at least 26°C-- to prevent people from loitering.
Roque said the IATF may also tackle the possibility of requiring the elderly and children to remain indoors during the GCQ since they are most vulnerable to COVID-19.
Under the GCQ, mass gatherings such as concerts, conferences, parades, among others are still prohibited and the public will still be required to wear face masks.
The IATF's recommendations are still subject to the approval of President Duterte.
Also on Wednesday, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said private companies reopening in GCQ areas have the option to test employees for COVID-19 when necessary.
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