By Martin Sadongdong
The public should have nothing to be afraid of regarding President Duterte’s recent warning of a military and police takeover in the implementation of government measures amid reports of rampant violations during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) on coronavirus disease (COVID-19), said the President only wanted to emphasize the importance of following the rules to curtail the spread of the viral illness.
“Ang ibig pong sabihin ng Pangulo ay magtago po tayo sa ating mga bahay at huwag tayong lumabas kung hindi na kailangan (What the President meant was for us to stay at home and avoid going out if it’s not necessary),” Galvez said in a virtual briefing on Friday night.
He was reacting to Duterte’s pronouncement last Thursday about the possibility of a martial law-like lockdown if the public continues to defy the ECQ.
“I’m just asking for your disiplina kasi kapag ayaw niyo, ayaw niyong maniwala, mag-takeover ang military pati pulis. I am ordering them now to be ready. Ang pulis pati military ang mag-enforce sa social distancing at ‘yung curfew. Sila na, parang martial law na rin. Mamili kayo (I’m just asking for your discipline because if you don’t want, if you don’t believe me, the military and police will takeover. I am ordering them now to be ready. The police and military will enforce social distancing and curfew. They will be [in-charge] much like martial law. You choose),” Duterte had said in a public address.
Galvez said the task force has been receiving reports from the ground that people are flocking to public markets in Manila and refusing to observe social distancing.
Worse, there were reports about residents being caught while engaging in illegal cockfighting and card games, attending parties, going to beaches, and drinking liquor despite the ban on mass gatherings.
This was followed by the spread of unverified reports online that a “total lockdown” will be imposed, which was eventually denied by the Malacanang.
“Sa aming palagay ay wala talaga silang takot o sadyang mababaw ang kanilang pag-unawa (We think that either these people don’t fear anything or they have shallow comprehension skills),” Galvez said.
As such, he called on the Philippine National Police (PNP), Amed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and other law enforcers to intensify the operations against quarantine violators.
The ECQ was implemented over Luzon last month as part of precautionary measures against COVID-19. It was supposed to lapse on April 15 but Duterte approved its extension to April 30.
As of Friday, the Department of Health recorded 5,878 confirmed cases, with 387 deaths and 487 recoveries.
Meanwhile, Galvez said new quarantine facilities are being established outside Metro Manila to cater to patients from the nearby provinces.
Among them are the ASEAN Convention Center in Clark, Pampanga; the New Clark City Government Building and New Clark City Athletes’ Village, the main hub of the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) last year, in Capas, Tarlac.
Once the conversations are finished, the three facilities can accommodate 1,700 patients from Pampanga, Tarlac, and other neighboring areas in Central Luzon.
In total, 2,780 quarantine facilities were already built which can house 167,781 patients nationwide.
This is aside from the ships from government and private organizations that are being utilized as floating quarantine facilities.
In terms of testing capacity, Galvez said there are already 17 laboratories that can conduct COVID-19 tests. The latest center to be accredited by the DOH is the Chinese General Hospital.
“Sa pamamagitan ng mga testing centers na ito, kaya na natin magsagawa ng 8,000 hanggang 10,000 tests kada araw (Through these testing centers, we can now conduct 8,000 to 10,000 tests per day),” he said.
This was seen by Galvez as a big boost to the targeted testing that was being conducted by the government.
Further, 57 hospitals are undergoing assessment from the DOH and Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) to be considered as COVID-19 centers.
Of these, 17 are already in the final stage of the accreditation process.