The increasing number of curfew violators and the activation of the online inquest proceedings of the Department of Justice has prompted the Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield (JTF CV Shield) to reconsider its decision not to arrest and detain the violators of home quarantine rules.
The JTF CV Shield is the enforcement arm of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. It is composed of the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fire Protection.
Police Lieutenant General Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, JTF CV Shield Commander and the Deputy Chief, PNP for Operations, said they also received appeals from local government units (LGUs), through the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), not to be lenient on curfew violators, citing their own hardships in convincing their constituents to follow the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) guidelines.
During the Laging Handa Briefing on March 28, 2020, PLtGen Eleazar said they decided to be a little lenient against curfew violators by allowing them to go home after booking them instead of detaining them until they posted bail, out of compassion, and the lack of suitable jail facilities as well as government prosecutors that would attend to the cases that would be filed since the DOJ is only manned by limited number of personnel.
The agreement was that the names and circumstances of the arrest would be documented and that the charges would later be pursued after the ECQ is lifted and the situation normalizes.
APPEALS AND REPORTS OF THE LGUs
But following the appeals and reports of the LGUs, the JTF CV Shield verified the information from police commanders on the ground and found out that there were a total of 42,826 apprehended curfew violators in the first 11 days of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, or from March 17 up to March 27.
Of the figure, 12,094 of them were from Metro Manila.
It was recalled that while the ECQ is only in Luzon, a number of LGUs in the Visayas and Mindanao have already implemented their own lockdowns to protect their constituents from the spread of the Corona Virus Disease.
“Just imagine if, shall we say a quarter of these violators are already virus carriers, they will not only endanger the health and the lives of our policemen and other people manning the quarantine control points but also the health workers and other frontliners who are exempted from the quarantine,” said PLtGen Eleazar.
“Based on our assessment, the number of curfew violators will just continue to rise if we become lenient on them. This will definitely defeat the purpose of the declaration of the Enhanced Community Quarantine which President Duterte approved purposely to contain the COVID-19,” he added.
FILING OF CASES TO CONTINUE
In view of this situation, PLtGen Eleazar said that the arrest and filing of cases against curfew violators will continue. All the arrested violators will be taken to the nearest police stations for investigation and filing of the cases.
As to the filing of the charges against curfew violators, PLtGen Eleazar said that the consultation with DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra through DILG Secretary Eduardo Año revealed the existence of the e-inquest project of the Justice Department, which is the conduct of a virtual inquest proceedings using any online platform for video calls and conferences and all available electronic communications.
PLtGen Eleazar said that the DOJ has already issued general rules on procedures for the conduct of e-inquest to the government prosecutors across the country.
In the absence of internet connections or online facilities in the police stations, PLtGen Eleazar said the regular direct filing will be done by the police investigators.
GUIDANCE TO POLICE COMMANDERS
PLtGen Eleazar said that he had already consulted with Chief PNP Archie Gamboa for the full implementation of the guidance of the DILG and the DOJ on the arrest of curfew violators.
Chief PNP Gamboa, according to PLtGen Eleazar, approved the following recommendations of the JTF CV Shield:
- To coordinate with the Local Chief Executives (LCEs) for the identification of the temporary detention center big enough to observe social distancing for arrested curfew violators;
- To coordinate with the LCEs on proper disposition of arrested curfew violators based on the penalties stipulated in the LGU’s ordinances;
- If the curfew violators will be released over a decision that the regular filing of the case will be done after the ECQ, curfew violators must be held for a maximum of 12 hours while being admonished so as to deter them from repeating the offense; and
- No physical punishment must be imposed on arrested curfew violators.
APPEAL TO THE PUBLIC
“Our message to the public is clear, we will continue to arrest any person who will violate the curfew,” said PLtGen Eleazar.
In order to avoid being arrested, charged and detained, PLtGen Eleazar urged the public to do their own share in preventing the spread of COVID-19 by staying at their houses and spend quality time with their families.
“We look up to all the frontliners as heroes in this war against COVID-19. But ordinary people can be heroes too by staying at their home as their own contribution in this war. Once we win this war, you can proudly tell the stories to your grandchildren about your contributions, how you helped the government to win the war against COVID-19,” said PLtGen Eleazar.
He also appealed for understanding from the public, saying the strict implementation of the ECQ guidelines is necessary.
“The virus does not move. People move it. We stop moving, the virus stops. It’s that simple,” PLtGen Eleazar.
Authority: PLtGen Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar, Comdr, JTF CV Shield
March 29, 2020