PHILIPPINE National Police chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa, yesterday assured the citizenry that the 205,000-strong police force will continue its mandate to preserve peace and order in the country and fight any effort to sabotage the government effort to prevent further spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
“The Philippine National Police under my command will remain steadfast and uncompromising in performing our duty as servants and protectors of the people most especially in this time of national health emergency,” he said as he defended President Duterte for ‘over-emphasizing’ the Enhanced Community Quarantine when he remarked that he will order the police and the military to shoot those who will create trouble and attack security forces amid the national health emergency.
“The thoughts of President Rodrigo R Duterte as expressed in his orders to the PNP are as clear as it can get-- that public order and rule of law must reign if we are to defeat this viral pandemic.
As a seasoned lawyer, President Duterte knows whereof he speaks. The order to shoot, after all, is consistent with what is prescribed in our Police Operational Procedures or rules of engagement that authorize use of reasonable force, including firearms, in defense of self and defense of a stranger when faced with imminent danger of unlawful aggression,” the lawyer-4-star general said.
However, Gen. Gamboa assured “that no shooting will happen if everyone will just obey the rules, particularly the guidelines of health authorities on quarantine, social distancing and crowding.”
“Let me reiterate our warning to agitators and organizers of illegal mass actions--disobedience to lawful orders of persons in authority will be dealt with squarely without compromise,” he said.
The PNP chief explained that impatience does not offer any reason to foment public disorder bordering on unrest and anarchy since the government has assured delivery of a P200-billion social amelioration package thru the Department of Social Welfare and Development, prioritized for the most needy and marginalized sectors affected by the lockdown.
“Distribution of individual cash assistance will commence in the coming days, and I have issued my guidance to PNP Deputy Chief for Operations and Joint Task Force CV Shield Commander, Police Lieutenant General Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar to muster enough PNP, AFP, Coast Guard and Bureau of Fire personnel to assist DSWD in this biggest ever humanitarian undertaking in Philippine history,” Gen. Gamboa said.
He stressed that order, safety and compliance to Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) guidelines shall be the primary considerations for efficient and systematic distribution process.
“This should be communicated effectively with the recipients only by authorized government communicators to frustrate the agenda of the purveyors of fake news such as those who told urban poor residents to go to EDSA purportedly to receive cash assistance, only to find themselves as cannon fodder in an impromptu mass action led by those “users” and purveyors of fake news,” he said.
20 ‘Fake news’ uncovered by PNP since ECQ Gen. Gamboa said they have uncovered 20 incidents of fake news since the ECQ took effect three weeks ago.
The PNP chief said five suspected authors of fake news have been arrested for allegedly spreading fake news on social media portals that has caused panic among the people.
He said the five are among the 24 persons named respondents in 32 complaints filed for inquest or preliminary investigation for violations of law on Unlawful Use of Means of Publication and Unlawful Utterances under Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code as Amended in relation to Sec 4c4 (Online Libel) and Section 6 of Republic Act No. 10175, or the Anti-Cybercrime Law.
“Case build-up operations are underway against the authors of the most recent fake news item on Facebook that reported the alleged police raid at The Medical City where some pieces of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) were allegedly confiscated.” he said. The hospital management quickly debunked this fake news report that was circulated in the private chatgroup Chevening Alumni-Ph.
“Let me emphasize again that disinformation is not helping us in this battle with an unseen enemy. Fake news is a crime that we must not allow to affect our lives especially not at this moment or any other time.
In this advance age of digital information, we must exercise discernment to analyse every bit of news thru a quick test of reliability of source and reliability of information. Fake news deserve to be ignored and not passed on to others. When still in doubt, the most prudent thing to do is to validate the information thru official government sources,” he said.
The JTF COVID Shield can be reached thru the following hotlines:09175382495-(Globe) 09988490013-(Smart); and 02-87253176-landline. Information can also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
“AS a member of IATF-MEID, I am aware of the magnitude of government response to this national health emergency such that I know for a fact that food and water security are on top of the strategic priorities, next to the unified public health strategy to contain COVID-19,” Gen. Gamboa said.
“And we are assured of enough food and water to see us thru this ordeal. The challenge, under ECQ conditions, is to ensure the steady flow of supply to the communities. That is why we have taken down some 127 barangay checkpoints put up along the entire stretch of the Pan Philippine Highway from North to South Luzon,” he added.
Gen. Gamboa said police intervention operations in support of the Department of Trade and Industry and Local Government Units are already in place to stabilize market forces by preventing artificial shortage due to hoarding and over-pricing due to profiteering and price manipulation.
“We have in fact, close down several retail outlets and even online sellers of medical supplies that violated DOH and DTI regulations. We are continuously monitoring the activities of more.
Finally, I join the national leadership in calling on everyone to remain healthy, calm, alert and properly informed in the Filipino Bayanihan spirit of unity as we hold-the-line in quarantine to stop the spread of the virus,” he said.