Curfew violators during the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) will still face arrest and possible prosecution, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Sunday.
Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP Deputy Chief of Operations, said the PNP has reconsidered its earlier decision not to arrest violators due to the increasing number of curfew violators and the activation of the online inquest proceedings of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Eleazar, also commander of the Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield (JTF CV Shield) , said they also considered the appeal of the local government units (LGUs) not to be lenient on curfew violators, citing their own dilemma in convincing their constituents to follow the ECQ imposed in the entire Luzon to contain the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
“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 front-liners who are exempted from the quarantine,” Eleazar said.
He said based on the PNP assessment, the number of curfew violators will just continue to rise if the police will be compassionate on the violators.
“This will definitely defeat the purpose of the declaration of the enhanced community quarantine which President (Rodrigo) Duterte approved purposely to contain the Covid-19,” Eleazar said.
The JTF CV Shield said 42,826 violators of curfew were apprehended in the first 11 days of the quarantine implementation from March 17 to 27.
“Our message to the public is clear, we will continue to arrest any person who will violate the curfew,” he said.
He said all the arrested violators will be taken to the nearest police stations for investigation and filing of the cases.
Eleazar said the DOJ has already issued guidelines rules on procedures for the conduct of e-inquest to the government prosecutors across the country. E-inquest is the DOJ’s conduct of virtual inquest proceedings using any online platform for video calls and conferences and all available electronic communications.
In the absence of online facilities in the police stations, Eleazar said the regular direct filing will be done by the police investigators.
He said PNP chief Archie Gamboa has already approved the JTF CV Shield’s recommendations that will guide the Department of Interior and Local Government and the DOJ on the arrest of curfew violators.
• 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.
Eleazar reiterated his appeal to the public to stay inside their houses and spend quality time with their families during the quarantine period to avoid being arrested, detained and charged.
“We look up to all the front-liners 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,” Eleazar said.
He also appealed for understanding from the public, saying the strict implementation of the enhanced community quarantine guidelines is necessary.
“The virus does not move. People move it. We stop moving, the virus stops. It’s that simple,” he said. (with Christopher Lloyd Caliwan /PNA)