By Chito Chavez
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año on Monday stressed that authorities are left with no other choice but to strictly enforce the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) regulations and have the violators rot in jail.
He said that it is unfortunate that many Filipinos still violate the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) measures “as if they do not know the gravity of the situation” pushing the national government to impose stricter policies for the protection of the general population.
With this, Año has ordered the deployment of additional police officers and force multipliers to public markets in Metro Manila and other urban centers in the country to strictly implement the prohibition on mass gatherings and enforce physical distancing.
“Thousands, for example, have been apprehended for breaking the curfew. Hindi po ito makatutulong sa ating paglaban sa COVID-19 pandemic kaya mas magiging mahigpit po tayo ngayon (This will not help us combat the COVID-19 pandemic that is why we will be stricter now). If we allow these people to continue violating the ECQ and physical distancing protocols, our gains in the past three weeks will go to waste,” he said.
Records of the Philippine National Police (PNP) revealed that 108,088 individuals were apprehended nationwide for violating ECQ protocols.
Of this number, 76,989 were warned and 4,969 were fined, while 5,539 were subject to inquest before the Office of the Prosecutor. A total of 20,591 were released pending the filing of cases with the Department of Justice (DOJ).
In coordination with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Año said security forces are now implementing a limited number of entrance and exits in public markets in order “to limit the people within the tight spaces of the markets and maintain the required physical distancing measures.”
“Members of the PNP and the AFP will work closely with the LGUs in supervising the entry and exit of people inside the public markets. Kaya po pakiusap din po sa ating mga kababayan, konting disiplina muna, makiisa po tayo (That is why I’m asking the public to please have a little discipline first. Please cooperate),” Año added.
He also directed the joint PNP-AFP teams to patrol the markets and other areas where people gather, such as money changers, pharmacies, and supermarkets.
“These physical distancing teams will be crucial in ensuring that people are apart from each other as they do their shopping,” he added.
The DILG chief explained that the joint PNP-AFP teams in the public markets would conduct roving patrols to ensure that those inside maintain physical distancing as well.
He also characterized alleged government plans to close all public markets as fake news.
“Linggo-linggo na lang ganyan ang pinapakalat nila. Wala po ‘yang katotohanan. Wag niyo na pong ikalat yan dahil fake news iyan (Every week, that is what they are saying. That is not true. Don’t spread that since it is fake news),” he said.
Año added that it has been noticed that the lockdown and physical distancing that have been implemented by the national government in response to the COVID-19 crisis “were deliberately violated by residents who either have a quarantine pass and use it to loiter, while those who do not are just hard-headed.”
Likewise, Año asked the LGUs and the PNP to direct people who do not have essential undertakings to go back to their homes.
“Kapag walang importanteng gagawin sa labas, pauwiin sa kanilang mga bahay (If they have nothing important to do, just send them home),’’Año concluded.