March 15, 2020

JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra clarified over the weekend that no one would be arrested for simply entering or exiting Metro Manila during the community quarantine which was recently imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Guevarra pointed out that the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) could only physically stop people from coming in and out, unless there was a justifiable ground to arrest them. 

Last Friday, National Capital Region Police Office Director Debold Sinas warned uncooperative or unruly people of possible arrest and prosecution should they defy the community quarantine guidelines. 

But Guevarra said that PNP and AFP personnel could only start arresting people if they start harming or attacking those manning the checkpoints.

Recently, President Duterte has suspended domestic travel to and from the Manila area for a month and authorized sweeping quarantines in the region to fight the new coronavirus.

Uniformed personnel would be deployed along the borders of the National Capital Region for the enforcement of the local travel ban.

He also banned large gatherings in the metropolis, suspended most government work and extended the suspension of classes by a month in new restrictions announced Thursday. 

“This is not martial law. It’s not even something extraordinary,” Duterte said, stressing that the restrictions are only aimed at fighting the virus.

Essential work-related meetings and religious activities could continue so long as strict social distancing was practiced.

Duterte announced the steps after a meeting of an inter-agency task force on the outbreak.

As of this writing, COVID-19 cases across the Philippines rose to 111 with eight recorded fatalities.