Senator Sherwin Gatchalian supported the deployment of military personnel to strictly enforce quarantine measures, citing the need to support the police and barangay officials on the ground who have been falling ill due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
In a statement on Sunday, Gatchalian said that if quarantine measures, especially the ongoing modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Batangas, Laguna, and Rizal, are not enforced, it becomes useless to shut down the economy because the virus will only continue to spread.
“I agree that we need to mobilize the military in so far as putting more boots on the ground and enforcing the MECQ because if we don’t enforce the MECQ to the letter, then it is useless closing the economy,” he said. “It’s a double whammy. You don’t stop the virus and you’re preventing people from earning.”
Gatchalian cited the increasing number of infections among police and barangay officials in Valenzuela, which is now almost 2,000. These officials, however, are the only ones that local governments can immediately deploy to enforce quarantine measures.
By calling for military backup, which Valenzuela did, local governments can increase the number of enforcers to ensure that quarantine measures are effectively imposed.
“For practical purposes, we really need to have more enforcers on the ground, and this is where the military plays a very big role. In fact, we in Valenzuela we wrote AFP to give us more military presence kasi nga ang dami naming police na nagkakasakit (because we have many infected police personnel),” Gatchalian said.
The lawmaker also explained that increased military presence in a local government does not mean they are taking over the enforcement of quarantine measures to beat Covid-19.
He cited that in Valenzuela, deployed military personnel take their directions from the police chief and the local chief executive, adding that the military do not have policing powers.
Gatchalian also said the display of authority by military personnel compels the public to follow quarantine protocols.
He debunked the notion that the national response to Covid-19 is militaristic, emphasizing that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is not the one enforcing the strategy to beat the virus.
He pointed out that aside from the health aspect of the response to Covid-19, there are also logistics concerns that are best assigned to the military such as the transportation and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other public health supplies.
Gatchalian said those who are leading the national response to Covid-19 were specifically appointed for task-driven roles, with medical experts still leading the health aspect of the country’s coronavirus strategy. (PNA)