Under fire for saying the police will monitor social media to uncover quarantine violations, the officer in charge of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, said they would do so while respecting people's privacy.
Eleazar had come under fire from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr., who said the Philippine National Police was using the pandemic to turn the country into a police state.
“We will not violate their privacy,” Eleazar said in Filipino, in a radio interview.
“We really don't care what they do inside their homes with regard to quarantine rules and regulations.”
Over the weekend, Eleazar urged police commanders and their personnel to regularly monitor social media for violations of quarantine protocols.
He said some social media users were uploading photos and videos of celebrations they attended despite prohibitions under the community quarantine.
Eleazar said police will only be able to monitor posts that are public or complaints brought up through social media pages.
“The social media are full of photos and evidence of hardheaded people deliberately violating the quarantine protocols. These can be used as pieces of evidence to warn, to fine and to summon the people concerned in coordination with the barangay officials concerned,” Eleazar said on Saturday.
Eleazar said the directive, issued by PNP chief Gen. Camilo Cascolan, covers violations of minimum health safety standard protocols such as mass gatherings for drinking sessions and other forms of celebrations.
Eleazar did not address social media photos that were posted in May of Metro Manila police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas violating quarantine protocols at a party on his birthday.
Sinas and 18 other police officers were slapped with criminal charges before the Taguig City Prosecutor’s Office for violating quarantine protocols such as wearing face masks and observing physical distancing but then PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa said the case was “closed.”
Reyes said the order to monitor social media posts furthers the government's militarized response to the pandemic.
“The PNP wants to use the pandemic to turn the Philippines into a police state, where every action is monitored by the authorities,” Reyes told Manila Standard.
“There are no clear guidelines for this. Quarantine violations are also not punishable by imprisonment. This proposal can be abused in so many ways as has been the case with quarantine guidelines since the enhanced community quarantine started,” he added.