President Rodrigo Duterte ordered police personnel to be stricter in enforcing quarantine rules on mask-wearing and physical distancing during a meeting with coronavirus task force officials on Monday, July 20.
“We have to ask police to be more strict, so hulihin talaga (really catch them). A little shame or put them on notice forever,” he said in a video of the meeting aired on Tuesday.
“If you are brought to the police station and detained there that would give you a lesson for all time so ganoon na lang (do it that way). ‘Yung mahirap, itong nasa squatters (What’s difficult are those in the squatter areas)… You ask the police to function the way they should in times like this,” he continued.
The President also said that not wearing a mask or doing physical distancing “can be a serious crime” since it could lead to the transmission of COVID-19.
Duterte said mayors “have to do more” in punishing COVID-19 quarantine violators. This comes as the national task force said the responsibility of imposing lockdowns now shifts to local governments.
The Chief Executive compared the Philippine situation to that of the United States where mayors and governors have more independence from the federal government.
“There is a raging fight between federal government and local states in America simply because there are mayors who refuse to abide by the rules,” he said.
The Trump administration has been criticized for failing to give nationwide guidance and assistance on testing and treatment, forcing governors and mayors to act on their own.
Duterte’s order on stricter police enforcement comes after a steady increase in pandemic-related arrests.
A Rappler report shows that close to 61,000 arrests due to quarantine violations were recorded by Joint Task Force (JTF) Covid Shield, as of June 19. At the time, some 2,000 people remained in jail for such offenses.
The Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties (CLCL), a consortium of the most prominent legal groups in the country, has been calling on the government to minimize arrests for quarantine violations because “putting more people in jail for light offenses will only exacerbate the transmissibility of the COVID-19 virus.”
Two jeepney drivers jailed for protesting during quarantine have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the group’s lawyer Henrie Enaje.
The Duterte government has also been criticized for its “militarized” response to the pandemic, a concern that grew when Duterte signed, in early July, an anti-terrorism law that could be used to crack down on dissent.
Standardized penalties for quarantine violators
In the same meeting, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said that national task force officials and local government chiefs are trying to craft nationwide standardized procedures and penalties for quarantine violators.
This was discussed during a meeting on Monday morning between national task force officials and representatives from the leagues of governors, mayors, municipalities, and barangays.
“We want just one implementation – how many days will violators of the face mask or physical distancing rules have to stay in jail, how much is the fine,” said Año in Filipino.
Local government and national government officials also discussed how to impose localized lockdowns, given the shift to this manner of imposing stricter quarantine modes compared to quarantine modes spanning entire provinces or cities.
Another major discussion point, said Año, was how to handle locally-stranded individuals (LSIs) or people who are trying to get to their hometowns from different parts of the country despite restrictions on public transportation.
Local governments have reported that insufficient regulation and coordination in the movement of LSIs have contributed to COVID-19 cases in their areas. – With a report from Lian Buan/Rappler.com