INTERIOR Secretary Eduardo Año will submit to President Duterte the names of hard-headed local government officials who insist on enforcing their own quarantine rules in defiance of guidelines set by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) for the 30-day Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Año said the President told him on Tuesday to report to him the local executives who continue to defy ECQ regulations crafted by the task force.
“The President gave me an instruction (on Tuesday). He told me to report the stubborn local chief executives. ‘Tell me immediately and I want them detained,’” Año quoted Duterte in a radio interview.
Año reminded local chief executives that non-compliance with the guidelines set by the IATF-EID, which were approved by the President, is punishable under the recently-signed Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
The DILG chief said his office continues to get reports and complaints about local officials who insist on implementing orders that are not consistent with the guidelines of the IATF, particularly on the unhampered passage of delivery trucks.
“The IATF also released the guidelines. What the local officials should do is to read them one by one and implement them. They should not go beyond these (guidelines). Some (local officials) are still acting excessively,” he said.
Año called the attention of all local government units about the IATF directive mandating the easy and unhampered passage of delivery trucks, and free movement of health and essential workers.
“There are some local government units, LCEs (local chief executives) are enforcing lockdown, no one is allowed to pass. That alone is already wrong,” he said.
The PNP has already ordered the dismantling of barangay checkpoints in national highways and provincial roads to prevent cases of delivery trucks being blocked by local government officials. Only PNP checkpoints are allowed to be set-up in major thoroughfares, while checkpoints maintained in barangay roads should be supervised by local police at all times.
Police operatives on Wednesday arrested 21 Quezon City residents for going out of their homes to protest the alleged lack of food assistance from the city government.
The residents, including women, are members of the Samahan ng Magkakapitbahay ng Barangay San Roque. They will be charged with violation of the Bayanihan Act. They are currently detained at the Quezon City Police District – Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit which is preparing the charges against them.
They will likewise be charged for violation of RA 11332 or the law providing policies and prescribing procedures on surveillance and response to notifiable diseases, Proclamation No. 922 declaring a state of public health emergency throughout Philippines, and Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code for disobedience to persons in authority.
QCPD operatives nabbed the 21, led by group leader Jocy Lopez, at around 11 am along Edsa in barangay San Roque, while they were protesting and demanding food assistance from the local government.
The suspects complained they have not received any food assistance from Mayor Joy Belmonte or from their barangay chairman.
Police said the 21 refused to heed the appeal of authorities for them to peacefully disperse and go back to their homes. This prompted the lawmen to accost them and bring them to the QCPD headquarters in Camp Karingal.
The Quezon City government denied the group’s claims and said it has already distributed to its constituents a total of 929,515 food packs as of March 30.
“In fact, there is continuous distribution of food packs throughout the city, both from the local government and the barangays to ensure that affected families are looked after during this crisis period,” the city government said in a statement.
Citing interviews by the QC’s Task Force Disiplina, it said the suspects were informed by an individual, purportedly from a TV crew, that food packs will be distributed Wednesday morning, followed by cash assistance from the social welfare department.
“After reaching the area, the residents discovered that there was no food or cash distribution. Instead, they were allegedly instigated by yet to be determined personalities to hold a rally and claim that the local government has not distributed any food packs in their area,” it said.
“Upon further investigation however, some residents acknowledged that they did receive food packs,” it also said.
The statement said Mayor Belmonte has appealed to the QCPD “to release the detainees in the interim for humanitarian reasons, with a warning that following the President’s directive that using a crisis situation to incite chaos, anarchy, panic, confusion and sedition is punishable by law under the Revised Penal Code and the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act.”
PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said PNP will be “firm and decisive” against agitators and organizers of mass actions which he said are in violation of the quarantine guidelines.
Over the weekend, a teacher from General Santos City provoked netizens to ransack a local gym where relief goods were being packed. Police filed charges of inciting to sedition against the suspect.
Banac also appealed to the public to remain in their residence to strictly observe the quarantine.
“Government remains responsive to their concerns, no less than President Rodrigo R. Duterte has assured that the needy will benefit most from the P200-billion social amelioration program rolled-out by government in response to the socio-economic effects to the Philippines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Banac.
Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite condemned the dispersal and arrest of the residents.
“Social unrest is growing and erupting as the government’s crisis response remains wanting. While Duterte and Bong Go posts photos of their meals during their quarantine, hunger and desperation is creeping in poor communities because of government inaction in providing the people with adequate assistance,” Gaite said in a statement.
The left-leaning lawmaker said it has been a week since Duterte was given emergency powers and access to more than P200-billion funds, “and yet the government has not stepped up its efforts.”
“This is what we get when a government confronts a health crisis as a peace and order issue, we get military men at the helm of the government’s action plan, and we get brutal response to legitimate demands. Not food, not cash, not assistance,” he said, calling for the immediate release of those arrested.
ACT party-list Rep. France Castro likewise condemned the violent dispersal and arrest of the residents and demanded the release of the government’s emergency subsidy program and other social amelioration measures for the poor and hardest-hit families be expedited.
Castro called for the immediate release of the residents and the dropping of all charges against them, saying: “It is not a crime to demand for aid from the government during this crisis.” – With Wendell Vigilia