POLICE social distancing patrols fielded this Yuletide in Metro Manila and other parts of the country have been armed with meter-long rattan sticks or ‘yantok’ which they can only use when hardheaded quarantine protocol violators show aggression when accosted, Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander Lieutenant General Cesar Hawthorne R. Binag clarified yesterday.
The official said Filipinos fully observing minimum quarantine protocols like wearing of face masks and face shields and social distancing have nothing to worry about the order from PNP chief General Debold M. Sinas to arm their social distancing patrollers with ‘yantok,’ probatons or nightsticks since they are part of police equipment.
Lt. Gen. Binag said the ‘yantok’ will make hardheaded individuals think twice before defying social distancing patrols. In many cases, unruly and drunken persons are known for questioning the social distancing measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus.
“They will have a rattan stick – one meter length. It’s for stopping (violators) and as a measuring device, and would be used to hit hardheaded individuals,” the official earlier said at a Laging Handa press briefing.
Gen. Sinas ordered the fielding of more social distancing patrols with rattan sticks noting that more people have gone out of their homes to visit crowded markets, ‘tiyangges’ and malls despite the pandemic.
Binag said that they have deployed nearly 100,000 policemen to help enforce the law and quarantine protocols at the same time under the new normal.
The official said that since last March 16, nearly 600,000 community quarantine violators have been apprehended by the police, 102,440 of them released and facing cases and 42,587 detained and inquested for disobedience to lawful orders from authorities and defying curfew hours.
Another 200,423 were given warnings while 253,248 were ordered to pay fines imposed by cities and municipalities for ordinance violators.
Binag said the public should understand that 34 percent of the violators were given warnings on first offense. Second offenders were asked to perform community service after being warned that they will be facing criminal offenses once caught again.
The 29 percent are repeat offenders who were caught violating quarantine protocols, curfew hours or drinking in public.
Lt. Gen. Binag said that they have instructed all police commanders in Metro Manila and the rest of the country to coordinate with mall managers and church representatives in ensuring tthat the 30 percent capacity limit in their establishments is met.
He likewise appealed to the public to adhere to quarantine guidelines as everyone should cooperate to keep COVID-19 from infecting more people.
“If we don’t help each other, it will be harder for us to win in the fight against COVID,” he said.