By Aaron Recuenco
Two companies of the police’s elite Special Action Force (SAF) will be deployed to Cebu City starting today to assist in the strict implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) amid the continuous rise of Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) cases in the area.
Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, commander of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, said the move is aimed at duplicating the government’s success in controlling the movement of people and in compelling them to observe quarantine protocols when Metro Manila was still under ECQ.
The deployment of SAF has been proven effective in forcing residents of Metro Manila since the third week of April to stay in their houses. SAF commandos have since been known as strict in enforcing the quarantine rules which subsequently compelled hardheaded residents to stay in their houses.
Based on the JTF COVID Shield data, there was a significant decline of quarantine violators since SAF commandos were deployed in the National Capital Region during the time when Metro Manila was under ECQ.
“Mobility assets of SAF will also be deployed in Cebu City that include Multi-Purpose Armored Vehicles similar to what we used in the implementation of ECQ in Metro Manila. We have already coordinated with the Philippine Coast Guard and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the deployment of SAF personnel and their mobility assets,” said Eleazar.
The official said that the SAF deployment is composed of at least 150 personnel and are set to be sent to Cebu City starting Thursday.
It was Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, an official of the National Task Force Against COVID-19) who ordered the deployment of SAF commandos after observing that Cebu City residents are not strictly following the ECQ rules.
Aside from SAF commandos, soldiers have also been deployed in Cebu City and nearby areas in order to augment the local police manning the checkpoints and conducting regular patrol to enforce quarantine rules on wearing of face masks, physical distancing and unnecessary movement from the residents’ houses.
“The Central Command is also using their air assets over Cebu City to check on observance of physical distancing on orders of Lt. Gen. (Roberto) Ancan,” said Eleazar.
SAF director Maj. Gen. Amando Clifton Empiso expressed confidence that they would be able to succeed in containing the unnecessary movement of people in Cebu City and nearby areas based on the ECQ guideline.
“I have full trust and confidence on my men in accomplishing the tasks given to them. This is our way of helping the people of Cebu City and nearby areas in their fight against COVID-19. And this is a way of showing the people of Cebu that we are with them in winning this battle,” said Empiso.
In order to facilitate the coordination between police ground personnel and JTF COVID Shield and PNP national leaderships, Eleazar said they will also be sending three senior officers from the PNP’s Directorate for Integrated Police Operations-Visayas and PNP Directorate for Operations.
“These senior officers will serve as our link to closely supervise and assist in the ECQ implementation in Cebu City,” said Eleazar.
Based on the data of the Department of Health, there are more than 4,000 cases of COVID-19 in Cebu. The three areas with the most coronavirus infections are Quezon City, City of Manila and Cebu City.