Eleazar tells public protesters: Don’t force troops to use force against you

JOINT Task Force Corona Virus Shield commander, Philippine National Police Deputy Chief for Operations, Lieutenant General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar yesterday renewed his call on known leftist-affiliated groups protesting against the Enhanced Community Quarantine to avoid making moves that will compel troops to use force against them.

“ President Duterte is only protecting the welfare of not only the policemen, soldiers and health workers but also other front-liners because if their safety is compromised  due to the attempts of some groups to create chaos out of this crisis, we will certainly experience a much bigger problem,” he said  after agents of the National Capital Region Police Office arrested 20 members of the Kadamay group who held an illegal protest action in EDSA, Quezon City last week.

“So now we appeal: Please do not compel your policemen and the rest of the JTF CV Shield members to use force against you. Our mandate is to maintain peace and order in this time of crisis. We will ensure that we will stick with that mandate not only because that is our sworn duty but also because the situation we are into right now requires full compliance with the public health guidelines for the general welfare of the Filipinos against the threat of the COVID-19,” Lt. Gen. Eleazar said.

The official reiterated the warning of PNP chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa to the instigators and their groups to refrain from exploiting this crisis to deceive the poor and create disorder.

Gen. Gamboa said they are continuously monitoring threat groups and other personalities who may try to create trouble and undermine the government during the national crisis.

According to the PNP chief, the PNP “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 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, afterall, 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.

“In the words of our Chief PNP, there will be firm and decisive police action against agitators and organizers of illegal mass actions in violation of existing laws applicable in this time of national health emergency,” said Eleazar.

“More than a thousand of your police front-liners are already suffering from the brunt of the COVID-19 and the number is continuously increasing. We cannot afford to lose more from the hands of the Kadamay and the rest of the leftist organizations who are shamelessly taking advantage of the vulnerability of our poor ‘kababayans’ to create chaos,” he said

According to the official, the President is much aware of the concerns of our ‘kababayans’ and what has been happening on the ground. “This is the reason why he cut the layers of bureaucracy and ordered that the cash assistance be given from the national government directly to the people— equally, without favoritism and as fast as possible . We, in the JTF CV Shield, will ensure full compliance,” he underscored.

Eleazar said that during the recent small EDSA rally, they found out that “there was a particular group which took advantage of the situation, which exploited our poor kababayan, by agitating them and even leading them to violate the strict rules on social distancing.”

“President Duterte has been tolerant to this particular group. When its leaders and members occupied a housing project before, everybody knows that what the President Duterte did was to give the housing units they occupied to them as a way of empathizing with their concerns—despite the fact that a lot of people criticized what this group did and despite the fact that there was a public uproar then to punish them,” he explained.

“But we were living in normal times then. Today, we are not because we are living in a time under the serious threat of the fatal Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19)—when everyone is a target, when the poor people are the most vulnerable.

This is the reason why the government, through the PNP, AFP and other law enforcement agencies, are making sure that all the measures to protect everybody, to protect the most vulnerable sectors of the society are strictly implemented. Please bear with us,” he said.