BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR and RAYMOND AFRICA
MORE than 100 persons infected with the coronavirus staying at their residences in Navotas and Malabon have been fetched by barangay and local health leaders and moved to government facilities for proper isolation and treatment under the government’s Oplan Kalinga program.
National Action Plan against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Vivencio Dizon yesterday said the national government, in cooperation with the city governments of Navotas and Malabon, had been picking up the COVID-19 patients from their homes since Sunday and had transferred them to isolation and quarantine homes where they are now being looked after by health personnel.
Dizon, in an interview with ANC, said the patients were neither arrested nor put behind bars.
He said the sick persons were removed from their homes and isolated to prevent them from infecting their loved ones and other members of their households and from transmitting the virus to their communities.
Navotas and several barangays in Malabon are now under a 14-day lockdown following a spike in community COVID-19 cases.
In Navotas City, two armored personnel carriers from the PNP Special Action Force were deployed to help in the strict implementation of stay-at-home protocols.
Metro Manila police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas said he personally inspected the deployment of policemen to the city to find out if there are measures that need improvements.
Sinas said the presence of the two APCs was not mean to send a chilling effect to the people of Navotas but to remind them that SAF commandos are working with city police in ensuring that everyone stay at home and observe health safety regulations.
Sinas said 172 cops from the Navotas City police station were dispatched on top of the 90 members of the regional mobile force and 105 from the district mobile force. The cops will make regular rounds in the boundaries of Navotas, Malabon, Valenzuela, and inner streets of Navotas.
Dizon said it is unfortunate that Oplan Kalinga had been misunderstood and even misinterpreted by critics.
Under the Oplan Kalinga program, COVID-19 patients, particularly mild and asymptomatic cases, who are under home quarantine will be separated from their families and isolated in government facilities if they do not have their own rooms and separate bathrooms at home and if they live with persons who are vulnerable to the coronavirus, like elders, pregnant women, minors and those with existing health conditions.
Dizon said local government units and barangay health workers validate the names of possible COVID positives which were referred by family members, relatives or neighbors.
Once they are confirmed to have contracted the virus, the patients are fetched at their houses and transported to designated quarantine facilities. The police accompany local and barangay leaders for security purposes only.
“It is not true that the way this will be implemented is for policemen to be knocking on doors and picking up people from their homes. That is false. I want to assure everybody that, that is not going to happen,” he said.
Dizon, however, said that COVID-positive patients cannot refuse to be put in isolation if they are already found to be positive because the state has the responsibility to protect the community against local transmission.
He added that only patients who are positive for COVID-19 will be transported from their homes to the facilities. Meanwhile, Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto, in a virtual briefing in Malacañang, urged the public to cooperate and not be afraid of Oplan Kalinga.
Sotto expressed confidence that the people would cooperate if the program is explained to them properly.
He said LGU representatives would be the ones to transport the patients from their homes to the quarantine facilities. He said in the case of the city of Pasig, arrests are only made if constituents are found out to be positive for COVID-19 but continue to roam around and refuse to follow protocols, including undergoing quarantine.
Quezon City mayor Joy Belmonte yesterday issued a memorandum that laid down proper procedures to be followed by city police enforcers in apprehending violators of quarantine and health protocols issued both by the national and city governments.
Under the memorandum, arrests can be made by a peace officer or private person while the person to be arrested has committed, or is actually committing, or is attempting to commit a violation of health-related ordinance on limited gatherings, social distancing, and mandatory wearing of facemasks in public places, among others.
An arrest can also be carried out when an offense has just been committed, and the arresting officer has probable cause to believe, based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances, that the person to be arrested has committed it.
After booking procedures in the nearest police station, arrested violators will then be brought to the nearest government hospital or city-run hospital for medical and physical examinations before a proper investigation can commence.
The memorandum was addressed to all barangay chairmen, district director and police station commanders of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) and chairman and members of the Quezon City Incident Command System–Law and Order Cluster.
The heads of the Barangay and Community Relations Department (BCRD), Social Services and Development Department (SSDD), Quezon City Health Department (QCHD), directors of the Quezon City General Hospital, Novaliches District Hospital and Rosario Maclang Bautista General Hospital and the officer in charge of the Public Affairs and Information
Services Department (PAISD) have been directed to strictly implement the memorandum.
As of 8 a.m. of July 16, the QC government has recorded 4,736 COVID-19 cases in the city, with 263 deaths and 2,587 recoveries.
Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian said the city will pass an ordinance to penalize quarantine violators and will also look at the possibility of allowing its citizens to arrest violators of quarantine measures just like in Quezon City.
Gatchalian said penalizing quarantine violators will send a strong message to the people to always follow health protocols to stop the spread of COVID-19.
He, however, has reservations whether to allow citizens to arrest violators.
“Whenever you say citizens’ arrest, we’re worried it might be subject to abuse. It might lead to further chaos rather than putting order to it. That’s why we have to study it a little because we want to know what mechanism did Quezon City put into to prevent those types of abuses from happening,” Gatchalian said.
He said local policemen and local officials were all empowered to make sure that residents strictly follow health protocols.
Gatchalian said the Valenzuela City passed an ordinance which penalizes COVID-19 jokes last May, saying “COVID should never be a joke because it’s a serious matter. We can’t be desensitized and make it part of a daily routine of joking around about it.”
Valenzuela City has 734 COVID cases, of which 14 have died, and 307 have recovered as of July 15.