THE Philippine National Police leadership has assured it won’t allow its men to encroach on private Facebook and other social media accounts of the public in its drive to identify perennial violators of quarantine protocols specifically those holding drinking parties and violating social distancing and the mandatory wearing of face masks.
“We’re talking here of social media posts which have gone viral, those which have been sent to PNP Facebook accounts and the senders of the posts calling our attention to act on the matter,” said PNP chief, General Camilo Pancratius P. Cascolan.
Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar echoed the statement of Cascolan who brushed off fears and speculations by some netizens that police will start acting like ‘Big Brothers’ to watch private accounts of netizens.
“It’s not true. What we’re referring here are social media posts sent to different Facebook accounts by our police stations and other units nationwide. These viral social media posts will be the ones monitored by our men for proper action,” said Eleazar.
Eleazar said violators of health protocols who can been seen in viral social media posts won’t be arrested. “They won’t be placed under arrest but they will be investigated. In fact, ang nata-target nga ng campaign na ito ay mga prominent government officials because we’re empowering our people, our barangay,” the official said.
Cascolan said that it’s every Filipino’s social responsibility’ to follow the health guidelines set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
He added that what they want their men to do is to properly react on social media posts from private citizens regarding the presence of people including their neighbors and public officials who are violating IAT rules.
Many viral social media posts like that of a group of Bureau of Fire Protection officers who attended a ‘despedida party’ for their chief as well as people dancing and drinking in the streets during birthday parties shortly after Metro Manila was reverted to General Community Quarantine have been investigated by the police.
The PNP chief said netizens should not fear them. “As long as there are no abuses committed in Facebook posts, as long as one doesn’t’ threaten to kill another in a message, or threaten to commit a criminal act, there’s nothing to fear here,’ he said.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines came to the defense of the PNP and said it has the power to check viral posts for quarantine violations.
IBP president Domingo Cayosa told a radio interview that viral posts are in the public domain and can be likened to an ad in a newspaper. “Kahit sino po, nakikita niya, at hindi naman bawal na titingnan din iyan ng mga law enforcement agency,” he said.
Cascolan earlier ordered his men to step up their enforcement of minimum health protocols imposed by the government to help fight further spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus and turn to Facebook to monitor violations and effectively address them.
Eleazar said they have created their own Facebook account where netizens could directly report blatant violations of quarantine protocols that they would monitor in the social media.
The official Facebook account of the JTF COVID Shield (Log in to Facebook | Facebook) under the account name COVID Shield is an additional avenue for the public to report quarantine violations they would monitor on social media, aside from existing Facebook accounts of local police stations and other police units, the official said.
Eleazar assured the public that the identity and other information of those who would report quarantine violations on the social media will be protected.
He added that no violation of privacy will be made since the JTF COVID Shield and the PNP support and respect the Data Privacy Act.
“The PNP will not monitor private social media accounts because first, it is illegal and second, our local police stations do not have the capability to do it,” he said.
“What we would monitor are blatant violations of quarantine rules such as drinking on the streets and other public places, large parties and celebrations, and illegal gambling such as tupada that are posted by netizens out of frustration for violation of quarantine rules, those reported directly by the netizens to the police through the social media accounts of various police stations and PNP units, and those who would go viral in the social media,” the official added.
Eleazar said the move is part of their efforts to empower the people not only to help the government in the enforcement of quarantine rules but also in protecting themselves and their community from hardheaded people who defy the protocols on observation of minimum health safety standards.
“We in the JTF COVID Shield believe that most of our netizens have already come across those who have total disregard of quarantine violations on their accounts through uploaded photos and videos of their Facebook friends. And we share their disappointment and anger against those people because it is really unfair that most of our kababayan are strictly abiding by the rules, there are people who even dare to flaunt their defiance by posting them on social media,” said Eleazar.
Through the Facebook account of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, the public will be given a platform to immediately report any blatant violation of quarantine rules such as engaging in drinking sessions, large parties and celebration and even illegal gambling in public places, he explained.
“All they need to do is to send us the photos and videos and we will take care of the rest,” the official said.