PHILIPPINE National Police chief, General Debold M. Sinas, has ordered all police territorial units to further increase their streets visibility specifically in all business districts and public transport terminals in the country in time for the Christmas and New Year holidays under the new normal brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The PNP chief instructed all 17 police regional office directors to beef up their foot and mobile patrols in all commercial districts in their areas of jurisdiction amid the opening of more shops and stores to help boost the economy especially during the coming Yuletide Season.
According to Joint Task Force COVID-19 Shield commander and PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, Lieutenant Gen. Cesar Hawthorne R. Binag, the order was given amid the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force to allow the opening of more business establishments in the country.
Sinas ordered the full implementation of a nationwide curfew and other measures aimed at containing the unnecessary movement of the people who are to blame as one of the major reasons of virus transmission.
Another measure being implemented is the marshalling of transport vehicles and public utility vehicle terminals by policemen as part of the measures against COVID-19.
The PNP chief also wants to enhance the regular conduct of barangay patrol of policemen in order to ensure that the minimum health safety and standard protocols are observed.
The PNP Directorate for Operations, however has instructed all police commanders to refrain from imposing physical punishments on curfew violators.
It also ordered local police commanders to mobilize barangay tanods and the city and municipal Public Order and Safety personnel for the enforcement of curfew that include setting up of barangay checkpoints and the conduct of regular community patrols. All barangay checkpoints, however, must be supervised but not necessarily manned by policemen.
Based on the data of the JTF COVID Shield, more than 380,000 quarantine protocol violators, including curfew violators, have been accosted since March 17.
Officials said curfew must be implemented across the country since it is part of the efficient measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus by preventing the unnecessary movement of people which is blamed as one of the reasons of the quick transmission of the virus.
“Curfew must be enforced regardless of the existing community quarantine status. Containing the unnecessary movement and gathering of people even within a community is part of the general medical solution against COVID-19 since what we are after is the prevention of the spread of this deadly virus,” said PNP Deputy Chief for Administration and former Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar.
Eleazar said that with the opening of more business establishments, they are anticipating that more people would also go out to visit their favorite stores or shops that were closed for a long time due to the strict implementation of community quarantine.
Since last September 1, the government has already allowed the operation of testing and tutorial centers, review centers, gyms and fitness centers. Also allowed to operate were personal grooming and pet grooming.
“The easing of restrictions is for the sake of our economy. It does not mean that we should also lower our guard. The threat of coronavirus infection is still there so we should always be alert and continue doing our mandate of protecting the public from virus transmission,” said Eleazar.
The official added that local commanders should also closely coordinate with their respective local government units (LGUs) in order to come up with an operational guideline for the enforcement of quarantine rules based on the existing rules and regulations being implemented by LGUs.
He explained that owners and store managers of the business establishments that were allowed to operate starting on September 1 must also be reminded all the time to observe the minimum health safety standard protocols for their employees and customers.
Eleazar explained that part of the anti-COVID-19 measures that should be implemented is the strengthening of police visibility in business districts, especially during the expected opening days as people would flock in the area to avail of the services.
“Local commanders can also tap the barangay officials for the deployment of barangay tanods as force multipliers, or the Public Order and Safety personnel of cities and municipalities to augment the local police,” he said.
“We should anticipate all the eventualities that may occur and these must be included in the planning and implementation in order to ensure that the quarantine rules are observed,” he added.
Eleazar also urged the public not to go to other areas to avail of the services of business establishments that would be allowed to re-open if there are the same establishments offering the same services in their respective communities.
The official had said that instead of being charged in court, violators of quarantine protocols in the country should be made to do community service and pay fines imposed by local government units.
The punishment in particular must be imposed on people who are frequently being caught drinking or gambling in public, without face masks and violating curfew and social distancing rules.
Eleazar said the arrest and the filing of charges could be the last resort if the violators became unruly and disrespectful to law enforcers, or the violators are repeat offenders.