E-inquest for quarantine violators activated—Eleazar

THE Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield (JTF CV Shield) has reconsidered its decision not to arrest and detain violators of the home quarantine rules amid the increasing number of curfew violators which has been placed at nearly 43,000 as of yesterday, the commander of the task force, Philippine National Police Deputy Chief for Operations, Lieutenant General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar said.

As part of the government effort to address the growing concern of people who continue to ignore appeals for them to stay home, the Department of Justice has also activated online inquest proceedings that will handle the case of apprehended violators, the official said.

Eleazar was designated by PNP chief, Gen. Archie Francisco F. Gamboa to command the JTF CV Shield which is the enforcement arm of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. The task force is composed of personnel from the PNP, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fire Protection.

According to Lt. Gen. Eleazar, they have also received appeals from local government units, through the Department of the Interior and Local Government not to be lenient on curfew violators, citing their own hardships in convincing their constituents to follow the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) guidelines.

During the Laging Handa Briefing on Saturday, Eleazar said they decided to be a little lenient on curfew violators by allowing them to go home after booking them instead of detaining them until they posted bail.

The initial move was made out of compassion and the lack of suitable jail facilities as well as government prosecutors that would attend to the cases that would be filed since the DOJ is only manned by limited number of personnel, he explained.

Eleazar said that the agreement was that the names and circumstances of the arrest would be documented and that the charges would later be pursued after the ECQ is lifted and the situation normalizes.

But following the appeals and reports of the LGUs, the JTF CV Shield verified the information from police commanders on the ground and found out that there were a total of 42,826 apprehended curfew violators in the first 11 days of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, or from March 17 up to March 27.

Of the figure, 12,094 of them were from Metro Manila.  However, while the ECQ is only in Luzon, a number of LGUs in the Visayas and Mindanao have already implemented their own lockdowns to protect their constituents from the spread of the deadly virus.

“Just imagine if, shall we say a quarter of these violators are already virus carriers, they will not only endanger the health and the lives of our policemen and other people manning the quarantine control points but also the health workers and other frontliners who are exempted from the quarantine,” said Lt. Gen. Eleazar.

“Based on our assessment, the number of curfew violators will just continue to rise if we become lenient on them. This will definitely defeat the purpose of the declaration of the Enhanced Community Quarantine which President Duterte approved purposely to contain the COVID-19,” he added.

In view of this situation,  the official said that the arrest and filing of cases against curfew violators will continue. All the arrested violators will be taken to the nearest police stations for investigation and filing of the cases, he said.

As to the filing of the charges against curfew violators, Eleazar said that the consultation with Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra through DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año revealed the existence of the e-inquest project of the Justice Department, which is the conduct of a virtual inquest proceedings using any online platform for video calls and conferences and all available electronic communications.

He explained that the DOJ has already issued general rules on procedures for the conduct of e-inquest to the government prosecutors across the country.

Eleazar said that in the absence of internet connections or online facilities in the police stations, the regular direct filing will be done by the police investigators.