JOINT Task Force COVID Shield commander, Lieutenant General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar yesterday said they are seeing the strict enforcement of discipline measures such as curfew hours, anti-loitering, anti-smoking and the ban on drinking in public as key to fighting the spread of COVID-19 virus in the streets of Metro Manila and the rest of the country.
He said that the measures have been proven to be an effective tool in strengthening the government’s fight against the killer virus during the enforcement of the Enhanced Community Quarantine and later the General Community Quarantine and Modified GCQ across the Philippines.
According to the official, Philippine National Police chief General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa has ordered the continued strict enforcement of local ordinances by the police through a memorandum issued by PNP Director for Operations Major Gen. Emmanuel Luis D. Licup, the concurrent Joint Task Force COVID Shield deputy commander.
The memorandum reiterated the need for all PNP units to strictly enforce laws and local ordinances which will help prevent the unauthorized presence of people in the streets as well as drinking, loitering and smoking in public.
“On the part of the JTF COVID Shield, we believe that these disciplinary measures using existing local ordinances against these kinds of offenses will reinforce the implementation of our quarantine rules,” Eleazar said.
Eleazar said that such disciplinary measures which were implemented in Metro Manila starting in 2018 have been effective in forcing local residents to behave and eventually resulted in the significant reduction of the crime rate in the metropolis.
“Through intensified police visibility and strategic deployment, coupled with cooperation of barangay enforcers, we were able to impose discipline in Metro Manila which eventually elicited positive results on crime statistics,” the official, also the PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, said.
“We believe that we can use this strategy against COVID-19 especially that we have been receiving complaints and observations about some of our kababayan who started to become complacent after some of the quarantine rules were eased,” he added.
Eleazar explained that since the implementation of quarantine rules during the ECQ period is already strict, such local ordinances would be helpful in GCQ and MGCQ areas where people are observed to have become complacent and stopped following the basic quarantine protocols.
In 2018, President Duterte raised concerns over harassments of women, bullying and criminal activities especially in the streets of Metro Manila being perpetrated by those who are high on drugs or drunk.
In response, the PNP started deploying more policemen to the communities and began using local ordinances to clear every streets of offenders such as those having drinking session on the streets, smoking in public places, male persons walking around topless, minors violating curfew hours and even regulated the use of videoke.
Based on the PNP data, a total of 3,631,553 were warned, fined and arrested across the country for violation of those ordinances from June 13, 2018 to February 2, 2020.
Metro Manila accounted for almost half of the accosted violators with a total of 1,804,406 violators who were warned, fined and arrested.
As a result of the aggressive campaign in the National Capital Region, the crime volume in Metro Manila also dipped by a whopping 63 percent in the first 40 months of the administration of President Duterte as a result of the combination of the aggressive campaign against illegal drugs and strict implementation of local ordinances.
Lt. Gen. Eleazar said that the disciplinary measures also resulted in the significant reduction of incidents of bullying and sexual harassments being committed by neighborhood toughies against workers, especially those who go home in the wee hours of the morning like call center agents and other nightshift workers.
Quoting some of the complaints that the JTC COVID Shield has been receiving, Eleazar said that there are some communities in Metro Manila and other parts of the country where loiterers begin to regroup on the streets again after almost the entire country was placed under GCQ and Modified GCQ.
Some people have also started to smoke and vape in public places as evidenced by a number of arrests made by the NCRPO.
Experts have been warning against continuous rise and even a series of waves of coronavirus infection in the country if people fail to adhere to the basic health safety protocols against COVID-19.
Some Local Government Units have passed their own ordinances penalizing people who would be caught not wearing face masks in public places and violating the quarantine protocol on physical distancing.