Effective contact tracing, protection for men a must -Gamboa

PHILIPPINE National Police chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa has assured the country they have a very effective contact tracing and at the same time doing their best to ensure the protection of their men who are involved in the war on drugs or serving warrants of arrest and search warrants as part of their effort to account for criminals nationwide while helping fight the spread of the deadly COVID-10 virus at the same time.

“First are the PPEs (Personnel Protective Equipment), then the face masks. Hindi naman puwedeng aatras kami dahil me COVID-19. Pero nakatutuwa na despite the COVID-19, marami kaming accomplishments, nakikita namin ang decisiveness ng mga tao to be successful in their operations despite the pandemic,” Gen. Gamboa told the Journal Group.

The PNP chief earlier called for the maximum use of information and communication technology in the PNP amid their war on COVID-19. “Digital law enforcement ensures faster  exchange of information and tactical accuracy on the ground,” he said.

The PNP chief also said they have discussed lengthily the pressing concerns confronting the PNP in relation to the prevailing national health emergency, primarily on  healthcare and force protection aspects as they adapt to the new operating environment.

Gen. Gamboa issued the statement amid concerns that members of the PNP Drug Enforcement Group, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, the PNP Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group and local territorial units are also exposed to the COVID-19 virus while conducting anti-criminality operations and serving search warrants or warrants of arrests.

Last week, the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group, the National Capital Region Police Office and the PNP Intelligence Group also launched separate anti-criminality and anti-terror operations in Quezon province and in Parañaque City which led in the killing of seven heavily-armed suspects.

Making dozens of arrest each time they conduct an anti-drug raid and other anti-criminality searches and operations or enforce the Enhanced or General Community Quarantine in the country also exposes members of the police force to the virus.

Howerver, Gen. Gamboa said thru the initiative of the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, they are publishing a Revised PNP First Responders’ Manual  under the New Normal to emphasize the observance of minimum health standards in a crime scene; the modified duty rotation of mobile and beat patrollers; orientation of safety health protocols; and proper use of protective equipment.

He said that a  similar Revised Manual for Police Investigators is also being finalized to better equip PNP crime investigators with investigative tools and technology that will not only minimize the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus but will also enhance capacity to solve and monitor cases, serve court processes and harmonize the functions of the criminal justice system.

The “PNP Investigator’s Handbook in the ‘New Normal’” contains the General Principles of Investigation and the General Investigative Procedures  which will serve as an updated “Go-To Guide” for all investigators who respond to crime incidents, he explained.

The PNP chief admitted that law enforcement operations during the 75-day Enhanced Community Quarantine period and the continuing General Community Quarantine have exposed members of the police force to the risk of infection such that there had been 499 confirmed COVID-19 cases among PNP personnel.

“But with an almost 60 percent recovery rate posted by the PNP healthcare system, 155 fully-recovered personnel have been restored to full-duty fit-to-work status, out of the 288 PNP patients who have been declared cured of the infection. The rest of the recovered PNP patients are just awaiting completion of the required quarantine and monitoring period,” he said.

Nonetheless, Gen. Gamboa expresses belief that it is in protecting their own personnel that the PNP is able to protect and serve the Filipino people better.

“As such, we are reformulating police response procedures to ensure the health and safety of our police and the general public; continue investigative and detective services; and strengthen and upgrade the PNP’s investigative function and capability,” the PNP chief said.

So far, there are nine confirmed COVID-19 fatalities in the police force since last March 16. who have died after contracting the killer virus since last March 16.

The PNP Health Service headed by Brig. Gen. Herminio S. Tadeo Jr. said the 9th fatality is 45-year old male officer assigned at the Police Regional Office 7 in Central Visayas. The victim became the 4th policeman from the region to succumb to COVID-19 last month alone.