POLICE social distancing patrolmen will be using a meter-long bamboo stick not to harm the public but to see to it that they will be protected from the COVID-19 virus while accosting quarantine violators from a good distance and vice-versa, Philippine National Police chief, General Debold M. Sinas, said yesterday.
The 25th PNP chief has ordered all police commanders across the country to ensure that social distancing and wearing of face masks and face shields will be strictly observed in shopping malls, airports, train stations and other commercial establishments in their jurisdiction as part of their effort to help prevent a 2nd wave of COVID-19.
Acting on Sinas’ directive, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director, Brigadier Gen. Vicente D. Danao Jr., also required all five NCRPO District Directors, chiefs of police and their station commanders to regularly inspect commercial areas and other places of massive convergence in their areas to ensure that all COVID-19 safety protocols issued by the Department of Health are being followed to the hilt.
“We are seeing to it that under the New Normal, the management and security officers of shopping malls, train stations, hotels and other commercial establishments will be fully complying with all government quarantine measures to prevent further spread of the deadly virus,” Danao told the Journal Group.
Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander, Lieutenant Gen. Cesar Hawthorne R. Binag, explained that baton-wielding Social Distancing Patrols from the PNP will be deployed to make sure people stay a good distance from each other.
Binag said the meter-long sticks or “yantok” would be used by their social distancing patrollers to measure the distance between people in gatherings and enforce discipline among hardheaded ones or those who refuse to follow regulations.
“They’ll be carrying yantok. It will be one meter and will be used to enforce discipline, to measure,,” the official said.
When he was still NCRPO director, Sinas ordered the deployment of a social distancing patrol in every station. Composed of two to four policemen, the patrolmen were equipped with sticks and tasked with checking on areas where people gather.
“The maximized presence of personnel in proper uniform, face masks and gloves will be called social distancing ambassadors. This initiative aims to minimize the contagion of this virus especially in places of convergence and ultimately ensure the continuous delivery of extended police service to the entire Metro Manila,” Sinas said then.
The PNP chief has ordered the maximum deployment of policemen in areas of convergence in Metro Manila and other urban parts of the country. Apart from enforcing quarantine protocols, police, backed up by soldiers and other ‘force multipliers’ will also ensure that their presence in public markets, shopping malls, churches, airports, seaports, and public transport terminals will prevent criminality and acts of terrorism.
Binag said police chiefs will also request parish priests in their areas to hold more dawn Masses to ensure that attendance would be spread out so people would not crowd churches.
PNP Deputy Chief for Administration and former Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar, had also recommended that only individuals with quarantine pass be allowed entry into malls as part of their effort that these establishments will not be the ‘ground zero’ of new wave of infections during the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine period.
“Let us not make the malls the ground zero of the new wave of coronavirus infections. Let us work together to start the normalization of your business while at the same time observing each and everyone’s obligation to protect the health of the Filipino people,” he said in proposing that mall-goers present their quarantine pass before being allowed entry.
The official also said that they likewise suggested that parking areas of shopping centers be checked by law enforcers so that from there, the latter could already control the number of people who want to enter the mall.
“‘Yung parking area napakaganda ring ma-check na kasi doon pa lang puwede na nating malaman kung ‘yung pupunta doon ay allowed to avail of the services. Kung workers sila walang problema ‘yun, kung sila ‘yung bibili ng goods and services, remember we are in MECQ, isa lang ang allowed na bumili noon,” he explained.
Eleazar cited what happened in some malls on the first day of the reopening wherein the excitement of the mallgoers after two months of being quarantined resulted in influx of people and unnecessary disregard of the rule on social distancing.
He said he is hopeful that the mall security managers and concerned local commanders would find an arrangement that would allow residents of nearby areas to go to the malls to avail of essential goods. “Pero kung ikaw ay taga Paranaque pero gusto mong mamimili sa mga mall sa Quezon City o Makati, ang tawag dun lakwatsa na, at hindi natin ito papayagan,” he maintained.