PHILIPPINE National Police chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa yesterday stressed the need to fully enforce President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to accost community quarantine violators specifically those who are not wearing face masks and face shields and violating social distancing and curfew hours amid the government’s continuing fight against the killer COVID-19 virus.
The PNP chief issued the order as the Joint Task Force COVID Shield headed by Lieutenant Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar said a total of 320,102 quarantine violators were warned, fined and charged nationwide since March 17.
Eleazar, also the PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, said nearly 240,000 violators of curfew hours and showing disobedience to authorities enforcing quarantine rules were apprehended and warned by authorities from March 17 to last week.
Around 45,000 were fined; over 18,000 were detained and inquested while more than 56,000 others were released for regular filing. Due to lack of custodial facilities, majority of those apprehended were freed after booking and documentation prior to the filing of charges against them, he said.
At present, all 17 Police Regional Offices led by the National Capital Region Police Office under Major Gen. Debold M. Sinas are fully implementing community quarantine guidelines and are daily apprehending hundreds of quarantine violators, mostly those who were found violating city ordinances regarding the mandatory wearing of face masks and social distancing as well as curfew hours.
Eleazar to trikers: Wear face shields, masks all the time
Lt. Gen. Eleazar called on all tricycle drivers in the country to wear face masks and face shields all the time while waiting for passengers, warning violators of the strict quarantine measure of having their driver’s licenses and franchises suspended or revoked for blatantly disregarding the measures to help fight the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Gen. Gamboa and Eleazar have ordered all 17 police regional offices to seek the help of all transport leaders in their areas in the strict enforcement of quarantine rules, specifically the wearing of face masks and face shields and social distancing.
The directive was issued amid reports that some tricycle drivers, especially in the provinces do not wear face masks and don’t observe proper physical distancing while plying their routes.
There was also public observation that many tricycle drivers remove their face masks and talk with their fellows while waiting for passengers at the terminals unmindful of the fact that their saliva might contaminate the air.
Lt. Gen. Eleazar said the defiance or the complacency being shown by drivers of tricycles and other Public Utility Vehicles (PUVs) is dangerous since it would contribute to the spread of COVID-19 amid the continuous rise in accumulated cases of the deadly virus.
“This must be addressed immediately especially that the passengers or the drivers themselves could be virus carriers already. There should be no room for defiance and complacency because all of our sacrifices for almost five months now would be useless if we continue to allow them to violate the quarantine rules,” he said.
“If this calls for the arrest or cancellation of the driver’s license or the franchise, so be it. These hard-headed people must be taught a serious lesson for they cannot just disregard the minimum health safety standard protocol at the expense of the majority of our law-abiding citizens, at the expense of our front liners especially our health workers who have already sacrificed so much in taking care of our infected kababayan,” he added.
According to Eleazar, PNP Director for Operations and JTF COVID Shield vice-commander, Major Gen. Emmanuel Luis D. Licup has already issued a memorandum to all PNP City Directors and Chiefs of Police, through their Regional Directors, requiring them to start the dialogue with TODA leaders in the soonest possible time.
“The Philippine National Police cannot do the enforcement alone. We need all the help that we can get to ensure that the quarantine rules are strictly and properly observed. TODAs are good force multipliers especially their members are always on the streets performing essential services to medical frontliners and other APORs (Authorized Persons Outside Residence),” said Maj. Gen. Licup.
Eleazar said the meeting with local leaders of Transport Operators and Drivers Association (TODA) aims to encourage their full support in policing their own ranks and eventually ensure the safety of their members and the passengers from COVID-19 infection.
The official pointed out that the National Task Force on COVID-19 led by Secretary of National Defense Delfin N. Lorenzana made it clear to PUV operators and drivers that the minimum health safety standard protocol for both the drivers and passengers must be observed in exchange for allowing them to operate.
Lt. Gen. Eleazar expressed belief that the TODA leaders would play a key role in the enforcement of healthy safety standard protocols since they have their own respective disciplinary measures for their erring members.
Eleazar said police commanders should also coordinate with the Local Government Units (LGUs), through their Tricycle Regulatory Units, to remind the tricycle drivers and operators of the conditions set by the government when they were allowed to go out to earn a living.