MANILA, Philippines – The military said it is ready to enforce the “martial law-like lockdown” President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to impose if people continued violating the rules of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon and other parts of the country.
“When directed, we are ready to take on the task of enforcing discipline and order where there is a breakdown in both, and [if] the people will not heed government’s pleas to observe community quarantine, stay at home, and when authorized to leave home, to observe physical distancing,” said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo in a statement on Friday, April 17.
This was in reaction to Duterte’s televised message Thursday night, April 16, warning that he would order the police and military to enforce physical distancing and a curfew “like martial law” if people persisted in stepping out of their homes and going around despite the lockdown meant to quell the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have to stop them. Failing to do so will have serious repercussions in the spread of the virus and afflictions more than our health workers and facilities can handle,” Arevalo said on Friday.
The marine general noted “documented blatant infractions” and “utter disregard” for community quarantine protocols.
“If the disobedience will be unabated, the gains we had in the past days that slowed down the increase in infections over time will be put to waste,” he said.
Arevalo said the AFP is prepared to work with the Philippine National Police “to establish discipline and order” if the President orders them to do so.
The military has been helping the police guard checkpoints since the lockdown of Luzon began on March 17. Both uniformed services have also been put in charge of several major national quarantine facilities.
The military has also been using its trucks, planes, and vessels to transport medical equipment, supplies, and relief goods.
In terms of law enforcement during the lockdown, the military has so far been secondary to the police, a civilian force.
Luzon will remain on lockdown until April 30, an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Other parts of the country are similarly on lockdown.
As of Friday afternoon, the Philippines has recorded 5,878 cases of COVID-19, with 387 deaths and 487 recoveries. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.