A JOINT Task Force COVID Shield official on Sunday said the strong presence of elite Special Action Force (SAF) troopers and soldiers in Cebu City aims to contain the “unnecessary” movement of the people amid the high number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases.
“Iisa po ang ating kalaban dito at ito po ang hindi nakikitang coronavirus (We have only one enemy here and this is the invisible coronavirus). We would like to contain the unnecessary movement of the people in the area,” Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, JTF Covid Shield commander said in an interview with radio DZBB.
In a statement on Saturday, Eleazar said the government is just implementing “tried-and-tested” formula when it deployed SAF troopers and soldiers to enforce enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the highest quarantine measure to stop the spread of COVID -19.
“The deployment of police commandos and soldiers here in Cebu City is not a militarization as some people would describe it, and therefore, is not a wrong approach,” he said.
He said the strong presence of policemen and soldiers in Cebu City “is neither meant to scare the people of Cebu City nor curtail their rights.”
“We are here because it is necessary, we are here to help, we are here to protect the people of Cebu City, and we are here to strengthen our frontline against the spread of COVID-19,” he added.
He said the deployment of soldiers and SAF commandos proved effective in reducing violators of quarantine measures in Luzon, particularly in the National Capital Region.
“This is a tried-and-tested formula in the enforcement of quarantine rules same as what happened in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon when we started deploying police commandos, soldiers and their mobility assets,” he said.
Eleazar said quarantine violators in Metro Manila went down from 3,000 to 1,000 following the deployment of SAF troopers and soldiers when the NCR was still under ECQ.
Upon approval of the PNP chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa, at least 150 SAF commandos were deployed in Cebu City to strictly enforce the ECQ rules particularly the wearing of face masks, observing proper physical distancing and refraining from engaging in mass gathering.
Lt. Gen. Roberto Ancan, commander of the military’s Central Command (CentCom), also deployed soldiers and their assets for the enforcement of ECQ rules in Cebu City.
Eleazar inspected the security and quarantine measures being implemented in Cebu City on Saturday. He was joined by Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Luis Licup, director for operations and vice commander of the JTF Covid Shield; Maj. Gen. Israel Ephraim Dickson, Director of the Integrated Police Operations-Visayas; and SAF director Maj. Gen. Amando Clifton Empiso.
Eleazar underscored the deployment of additional SAF commandos and soldiers to make sure that quarantine measures “are strictly observed”.
“While we do our share in fighting the coronavirus by taking every street and every border as our frontline, we expect the people to do their fair share by protecting their homes as their own frontline. This is our battle plan, and this is how we will win this fight,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier reverted Cebu City under ECQ due to the continuous rise in the number of Covid-19 cases. PNA