AMID their stepped-up effort to apprehend violators of the General Community Quarantine to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in Metro Manila, National Capital Region Police Office director, Major General Debold M. Sinas, has ordered Metro Manila police commanders to find much bigger and available spaces where they can detain the GCQ offenders.
The NCRPO chief told the Journal Group that the move is aimed at preventing the possibility that any of the dozens of GCQ violators being apprehended daily by different Metro Manila police stations may be COVID-19 carriers who may pose a threat to officers and other persons under police custody once they are hauled to the police stations.
Maj. Gen. Sinas admitted there have been apprehensions that large group of persons undergoing custodial investigation may pose a threat to the health of the police and other custodial prisoners should they be held in the same detention facility.
During the Enhanced Community Quarantine period, NCRPO agents were known to have made multiple arrests in a single day including dozens of Chinese nationals apprehended for involvement in illegal POGO or online casino operations as well as dozens of ECQ violators daily in different parts of Metro Manila.
Their sheer number alone could not afford the police to bring them to their station’s lock-up facility while undergoing investigation prompting officers to haul them to basketball courts, open fields or the rooftops of their stations where they were kept under guard.
The problem materialized again the other week when Makati City policemen arrested 113 quarantine violators, 70 of them males including actor-television host KC Montero and 43 females inside the Skye Bar located at the 18th floor of M1 Tower in Dela Costa Street in Salcedo Village in Makati City.
The 113, among them two British males, three Irish males, one male and five Taiwanese females; one male American; one male Korean; one female from New Zealand; two male Australians; one male from Thailand; one female from Hong Kong; and one Brazilian male, were taken to the Barangay Guadalupe Nuevo gym in Makati City pending the filing of charges for violation of Republic Act 11132, simple disobedience to a person in authority and an order implementing strict social distancing in Makati City to control and limit exposure to COVID-19, Sinas said.
“Yun yung isa sa mga aspect na ginagawa namin kung may kalakihan na grupo na nahuhuli ay naghahanap kami ng mga malaking lugar. With our experience sa Makati ay inadvise-an ko na lahat ‘yung chief of police in case merong malalaking ganung arrest or violation ng quarantine law ay ready na sila dalhin kaagad sa lugar na ‘yun,” Maj. Gen. Sinas said.
The idea, the NCRPO chief explained, is to prevent mass gathering inside police stations while the GQC violators are being documented pending the filing of criminal charges against them.
“Huwag na nila dalhin sa police station na magkumpulan. ‘Yun ang bagong instruction namin. Nag-locate na sila para in case maghuli sila ng ganun maidala na diretso at hindi magkumpulan sa loob ng istasyon,” the official said.
There were also fears that agents of the PNP Drug Enforcement Group, the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group, the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, the PNP Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group and local territorial units may be exposed to the COVID-19 virus while conducting anti-criminality operations and serving search warrants or warrants of arrests.
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.
This happened when CIDG operatives raided an illegal COVID-19 treatment facility catering to Chinese nationals inside the Fontana Resort in Clarkfield, Angeles City last May and arrested dozens of Chinese nationals.
However, PNP chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa said that 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 safety protocols; and proper use of protective equipment.
He said 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 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.
Gen. Gamboa also expressed 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 with over 800 others recorded to have contracted the virus and now undergoing treatment and quarantine.