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No more Xmas parties, carolings

NO more Christmas parties, large mass gatherings, street caroling this Christmas and violators will be accosted by policemen armed with ‘yantok’ sticks for protection, the Philippine National Police leadership said yesterday.

According to PNP chief, General Debold M. Sinas, President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed them to ensure that PNP Social Distance Patrollers in malls, public markets, transport terminals and other places of convergence will be equipped with ‘yantok’ or batons to avoid contact with the people.

“This is part of our social distancing measure. Kung walang stick na gamit, mapiplitan ang pulis na hawakan ang isang quarantine protocol violator,” the top cop said.

Sinas explained that ‘yantok’ is their available tool of protection since batons are much shorter than the bamboo stick and they also lack supply of the wooden police tool. “Ang yantok, mas mahaba to determine proper social distancing. Hindi gagamitin sa pamamalo pero pag me violent resistance, yun ang gagamitin to restrain ang isang tao imbes na barilin,” he emphasized.

Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander, Lieutenant Gen. Cesar Hawthorne R. Binag said police need the tool since their records show that many of the nearly 600,000 quarantine protocol violators apprehended since last March 16 were charged with cases related to direct assault.

“We’re duty-bound to defend ourselves and make arrests too,” he said.

Binag said that police have been trained on how to properly use the ‘yantok’ as a weapon at the Academy or during their initial on-the-job training and is considered as a ‘non-lethal weapon.’

“Ang utos ng ating Chief,PNP ay panukat ang yantok ng social distancing pero nagsisilbi rin itong paalala sa lahat na sumunod sa batas,” Lt. Gen. Binag, also the PNP Deputy Chief for Operations said.

The official said that in preparation for Christmas and New Year, he has met with officials of the Armed Forces, Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fire Protection which also comprises the JTF COVID Shield to plan their yuletide security measures.

“The overall concept is prevent, detect, isolate, treat and recover, and we believe that 80 percent ng solution is prevention,” he said.

Binag said they have to work closely with local government units which have been given authority by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to enforce ‘reasonable restrictions’ to help prevent the further spread of the virus.

“We’re also maximizing the use of our force multipliers and have doubled, if not tripled our visibility in malls, public markets and the like,” he said. The official said that in Divisoria market alone, there are already a total of 229 policemen deployed to enforce social distancing and keep peace and order.

The PNP Highway Patrol Group was also ordered to monitor so-called ‘feeders’ or drivers of UV Express and commuter vans operating in drop-off points of shuttle buses hired by different private companies to ferry their employees to their homes and work and vice-versa.

Binag said they have received information that unscrupulous UV Express and other public utility vehicle drivers are taking in passengers coming from these shuttle buses and are making sure that they are fully occupied, with no social distancing in order to earn more money while sacrificing public health.

He said that Sinas has also ordered all chefs of police to talk with mall managers to ensure their compliance with government health protocols. The PNP Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies were also directed to increase their post-to-post inspections of security guards in malls to see if these private guards are strictly implementing quarantine protocols and minimum health standards.

The official said the age restriction in some cities and municipalities have been placed at 18 to 65 years old in order for them to leave their homes. He added that there are also some church officials who have decided to add more evening and dawn masses during the ‘Misa de Gallo’ in order to spread the number of their devotees.

“Bawal pa din ang mass gatherings, ang Christmas parties, caroling. Yung mga nanga-ngaroling sa kalye na Indigenous People, we have ordered our chiefs of police to coordinate with the DSWD to rescue these Ips and help protect them from the virus,” Binag said.