ACTING on instructions of President Duterte, Philippine National Police chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa yesterday said he has ordered a stepped-up drive versus criminality and quarantine violators in the country as part of their effort to enforce discipline while keeping the streets safe 24/7.
“Upon instructions of President Rodrigo R Duterte, the Philippine National Police is stepping up the anti-crime drive and enforcement of local ordinances in coordination with the Local Government Units to arrest the rise of common street crimes amidst the national health emergency,” the top cop told a press conference at Camp Crame.
According to the PNP chief, the PNP Directorate for Operations headed by Major Gen. Emmanuel Luis D. Licup has issued a memorandum to all 17 Police Regional Offices and the different PNP National Operational Support Units reminding their commanders of the need to strictly enforce all quarantine measures aimed at preventing the further spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus and keeping criminals on the run.
The memorandum specifically called on police commanders to ensure the strict implementation of laws and local ordinances through arrest of violators such as those drinking and smoking in public places, roaming the streets without shirts, using karaoke beyond the allowed time, minors violating curfew hours, and others.
Gen. Gamboa also ordered the strict enforcement of minimum health standard protocols such as wearing of face masks, social distancing and mass gatherings; and an increased police visibility through optimized personnel deployment in all places of convergence.
“I would like also to remind the public that we are still under community quarantine and as such, should strictly follow the health protocols to stop the spread of the virus. Cooperation and compliance are a must in this time of health crisis,” he said.
The PNP chief said his order is for his men to apprehend and file appropriate charges against all quarantine violators in the country even as he called on local government units to enact ordinances that will help the police go after violators specifically the repeat offenders.
He also called on his men to look for much bigger spaces where the quarantine violators would be held with the support of LGUs. “Malaking problema talaga, even the BJMP ay umaangal pero we need to fully enforce the law. Ang payo ko lang sa mga kababayan natin, wag nang maging pasaway because this (fight versus COVID) is a national concern,” he stressed.
National Capital Region Police Office director, Major Gen. Debold M. Sinas ordered all Metro Manila police commanders to find much bigger and available spaces where they can detain the General Community Quarantine violators.
The NCRPO chief told the Journal Group that the move is aimed at preventing the possibility that any of the dozens of GCQ violators being apprehended daily by different Metro Manila police stations may be COVID-19 carriers who may pose a threat to officers and other persons under police custody once they are hauled to the police stations.
Maj. Gen. Sinas admitted there have been apprehensions that large group of persons undergoing custodial investigation may pose a threat to the health of the police and other custodial prisoners should they be held in the same detention facility.
During the Enhanced Community Quarantine period, NCRPO agents were known to have made multiple arrests in a single day including dozens of Chinese nationals apprehended for involvement in illegal POGO or online casino operations as well as dozens of ECQ violators daily in different parts of Metro Manila.
Their sheer number alone could not afford the police to bring them to their station’s lock-up facility while undergoing investigation prompting officers to haul them to basketball courts or the rooftops of their stations where they were kept under guard.
The problem materialized again two weeks ago when Makati City policemen arrested 113 quarantine violators inside a posh bar in Salcedo Village which was eventually shut down by the local government.
“Yun yung isa sa mga aspect na ginagawa namin kung may kalakihan na grupo na nahuhuli ay naghahanap kami ng mga malaking lugar. With our experience sa Makati ay inadvise-an ko na lahat ‘yung chief of police in case merong malalaking ganung arrest or violation ng quarantine law ay ready na sila dalhin kaagad sa lugar na ‘yun,” Maj. Gen. Sinas said.
The idea, the NCRPO chief explained, is to prevent mass gathering inside police stations while the GQC violators are being documented pending the filing of criminal charges against them.