By Aaron Recuenco
Violators of home quarantine and other guidelines of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) may end up staying in jail indefinitely, the Joint Task Force COVID Shield warned on April 13, Monday.
Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, JTF COVID Shield commander, specifically warned repeat offenders, or those who have been previously apprehended but have since been released with only a warning not to repeat a violation of the ECQ.
Eleazar explained that procedures for filing of cases are still followed even with the ECQ. Filing can be done through the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) electronic inquest or e-inquest.
Under an e-inquest, those arrested for violating curfew and/or other ECQ guidelines would be taken to police stations where they would be presented to government prosecutors via video chat or video conference apps.
Violators charged face one major problem: how to post bail, since courts are all closed under the ECQ.
“We have online inquest but there is no online detention. This means that they have to stay in jail until the courts reopen to process their bail,” said Eleazar.
Based on the latest JTF COVID Shield data, a total of 108,088 curfew violators have been apprehended across the country from March 17 to April 12.
Of these, 71.23 percent, or a total of 76,989, were let go with a warning, while a total of 4,869 were fined.
On the other hand, a total of 5,539 have been charged while 20,591 are set to be slapped with charges.
Eleazar said PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa has already ordered police commanders to coordinate with the DoJ to strengthen the e-inquest procedures—and it starts with ensuring that police stations have strong internet connection.
For his part, Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said that the e-inquest has been proven effective in Quezon city and other cities across the country.
“We need to maximize e-inquest especially [since] the ECQ [hass been] already extended. We will work together with the PNP, especially at the level of police stations where the filing of charges happen,” said Malcontento.
“We will also check the capability on our side,” he added.
Eleazar then advised the public to stay at home and follow quarantine rules, not only to ensure the safety of their families, but also as their own contribution in further preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Aside from curfew violations, Eleazar said the e-inquest is also intended for other violations like hoarding, profiteering, manipulation of prices of basic commodities and medical supplies, as well as violations of the ban on public transport.