PHILIPPINE National Police Deputy Chief for Operations and Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield head Lieutenant General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar yesterday reminded all police commanders across the country to dismantle barangay checkpoints set up along national highways and provincial roads amid complaints they are the ones blocking the flow of basic goods.
As agreed by PNP chief Gen. Archie Francisco F. Gamboa, the JTF CV Shield task force commander said he has instructed all 17 police regional offices to ensure that no barangay checkpoints would be set up along national highways and provincial roads in their areas in order to establish a uniform implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) guidelines for the prevention of the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
The JTF CV Shield is the enforcement arm of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. It is composed of personnel from the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fire Protection.
Lt. Gen. Eleazar said that the move is in compliance with the order of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año to remove all barangay checkpoints at major thoroughfares amid complaints of varying rules and regulations being implemented by the Local Government Units (LGUs) and the barangays.
The task force commander said he had already coordinated with Gen. Gamboa the full implementation of the order from the DILG chief.
“Our Chief PNP, General Archie Gamboa, has already directed all the police commanders to assist us in the implementation of the SILG’s order,” said Lt.Gen. Eleazar.
Eleazar explained that the existence of barangay checkpoints on national highways and provincial roads has resulted in the delay of the movement of basic commodities and also caused confusion among the people, particularly those exempted from the home quarantine or APOR, as some barangay officials are implementing quarantine rules and regulations which are not in line with the guidelines issued by the IATF.
APOR stands for Authorized Persons Outside Residence.
This is the reason why guidelines on the conduct of checkpoints were issued before, he explained. But despite the guidelines issued on the conduct of checkpoints, they still received complaints that some barangay checkpoints are disregarding the IATF rules, Eleazar said.
“Some of these barangay checkpoints are implementing their own rules which are clearly in defiance of the IATF guidelines. We in the JTF CV Shield have been receiving similar complaints from cargo owners and drivers and even from people who are supposed to be exempted from home quarantine but were being barred in barangay checkpoints,” the official said.
“Maliwanag ang utos ng ating Pangulo na dapat ang IATF Guideline and mangingibabaw sa lahat ng ECQ rules na ipinapatupad," he added.
Based on the DILG order, Eleazar said that only PNP checkpoints are allowed on national highways and provincial roads and that only PNP personnel are allowed to inspect cargo trucks passing along the major thoroughfares.
He said barangay checkpoints are only allowed on interior roads provided that there is a prior coordination with the local police station for their setting up and that those barangay checkpoints will be supervised by the local police.
Eleazar explained that the supervision of the PNP of all barangay checkpoints are necessary in order to ensure that the barangay officials will not be given any chance to implement rules and regulations that are not aligned with the IATF Guidelines, particularly on the APOR.
The 3-star police general added that the supervision of the local police does not mean that policemen will always be present in the barangay checkpoints, explaining that regular monitoring will do in order to ensure that those manning the barangay checkpoints comply with the IATF Guidelines.
He said that that all chiefs of police and station commanders were directed to make sure that all barangay checkpoints are complying with the IATF rules and the APOR issued by the JTF CV Shield.
“The Chief PNP also approved our recommendation for the chiefs of police and station commanders to make sure that the IATF Guidelines prevail over the rules and regulations of the LGUs. This is the reason why we have been providing the local commanders the regular updates on IATF Guidelines particularly on APOR,” the task force commander said.
“While the situation has already improved in the past days, there are still some problems in other areas because some of the LGUs are insisting on following their own rules, some of these rules contradict the IATF Guideline. This should not be the case. There should be a uniform rule to avoid confusion and delay of the movement of cargoes,” he added.
While the ECQ is only Luzon-wide, the order to dismantle barangay checkpoints along national highways and provincial roads also apply in the Visayas and Mindanao as some local government units have also imposed their own lockdowns amid the threat of COVID-19, Eleazar said.
National Capital Region Police Office director Major Gen. Debold M. Sinas immediately ordered the full implementation of the JTV CV Shield instruction as he ordered all NCPRO District Directors and Chiefs of Police to see to it that they will remove all barangay checkpoints put up on highways located in their jurisdiction.
Secretary Año said all barangay checkpoints on all national highways and provincial roads are to be removed because they impede the movement of goods and essential people which is against IATF guidelines.