PNP warns vs public assemblies amid COVID-19 emergency

Archie Francisco F. Gamboa

PHILIPPINE National Police chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa yesterday vowed firm and decisive police action against agitators and organizers of illegal mass actions in violation of existing laws applicable while the country is under a national health emergency.

Gen. Gamboa issued the warning as agents of the National Capital Region Police Office under Major Gen. Debold M. Sinas arrested 20 members of the urban poor group Kadamay led by one Jocy Lopez, 47,  after they illegally held a public assembly in Barangay San Roque along EDSA, Quezon City shortly before noon Wednesday.

The protesters were identified as members of a group called  Kalampag of SAMANA (Samahan ng Magkakapitbahay), also known as Kadamay Group.

Led by the 47-year-old Lopez, a resident of Sitio San Roque, EDSA, Q.C., the group assembled along EDSA North in front of Avida Show Room EDSA to demand food supply from the local government unit.

For almost an hour, police requested the protesters to go home and follow the guidelines embodied in the enhanced community quarantine law.

They however refused and argued with members of the Quezon City Police District led by Lieutenant Colonel Rodrigo Soriano triggering the mass arrest.

Sinas was dismayed by the incident and reiterated his plea for all Metro Manila residents to stay home if they are not authorized to go outside.

"I understand the challenges that go with the implementation of our enhanced community quarantine. However, we have our own sacrifices to make to win this battle with the unseen. The safest place to be right now is at home. So please, stay at home. Let us end the spread of this pandemic together. We cannot do this alone,” said the NCRPO director.

Over the weekend, police also arrested a teacher in General Santos City who “provoked” netizens to ransack  a local gym where relief goods were being packed.  Upon the complaint of city officials, criminal charges for inciting to sedition was filed against the suspect.

PNP spokesman, Brigadier Gen. Bernard M. Banac reiterated the PNP’s appeal to the public to remain in their homes and diligently observe the community quarantine protocols until further orders from the public health authorities.

“Government remains responsive to their concerns.  No less than President Duterte has assured that the needy will benefit most from the P200-billion social amelioration program rolled out by government in response to the socio-economic effects to the Philippines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Banac said.