PHILIPPINE National Police chief General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa yesterday said they have recorded an 8th COVID-19 fatality in the police force amid their ongoing effort to build more testing facilities and ensure the protection of officers involved every day in anti-criminality operations while manning quarantine control points at the same time.
He did not identify the 8th fatality but said he is from Cebu. “The last COVID-19 victim came from Cebu last week bringing our casualties to eight already, the last three all coming from Cebu,” the top cop said.
Gen. Gamboa last week sent 100 additional policemen to Cebu City to help the local police enforce the Enhanced Community Quarantine in the area. He explained that they want to establish additional training centers so that members of the police force won’t have to go to other government testing centers anymore.
Gen. Gamboa said there was a need to send reinforcement to Cebu City since local policemen who are not yet tested for COVID-19 are all required to undergo a 14-day quarantine which would keep them off the streets.
He also said that although they have a very extensive contact tracing within members of the force, there is really a need to hire thousands of contact tracers.
The PNP chief also said that they are doing their best to ensure the protection of their men who are involved in the war on drugs or serving warrants of arrest and search warrants across the country.
“First are the PPEs, then the face masks. Hindi naman puwedeng aatras kami dahil me COVID-19. Pero nakatutuwa na despite the COVID-19, marami kaming accomplishments, nakikita namin ang decisiveness ng mga tao to be successful in their operations despite the pandemic,” Gen. Gamboa said.
The PNP chief earlier called for the maximum use of information and communication technology in the PNP by going digital. “Digital law enforcement ensures faster exchange of information and tactical accuracy on the ground,” he said.
The PNP chief also said they have discussed lengthily the pressing concerns confronting the PNP in relation to the prevailing national health emergency, primarily on healthcare and force protection aspects as they adapt to the new operating environment.
Gen. Gamboa issued the statement amid concerns that members of the PNP Drug Enforcement Group, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, the PNP Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group and local territorial units are also exposed to the COVID-19 virus while conducting anti-criminality operations and serving search or arrest warrants.
Gen. Gamboa said that through 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; modified duty rotation of mobile and beat patrollers; orientation of safety health safety protocols; and proper use of protective equipment.
He said that 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 Investigator’s Handbook in the ‘New Normal’” contains the General Principles of Investigation and the General Investigative Procedures which will serve as an updated “Go-To Guide” for all investigators who respond to crime incidents, he explained.
The PNP chief said 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.
“But with an almost 60 percent recovery rate posted by the PNP healthcare system, 155 fully-recovered personnel have been restored to full-duty fit-to-work status, out of the 288 PNP patients who have been declared cured of the infection. The rest of the recovered PNP patients are just awaiting completion of the required quarantine and monitoring period,” he said.
Nonetheless, Gen. Gamboa said 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.
“Even as some restrictions on mass transportation are eased effective today, the PNP will continue to be vigilant in enforcing the minimum health standards imposed by IATF on use of face masks, physical distancing, crowding, non-essential travel and other acts that inimical to public health,” he added.