THE commander of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield on Wednesday ordered the deployment of more policemen to public markets and other places of convergence in Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan.
Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, the task force’s chief and PNP deputy chief for operations, said his order was prompted by quarantine violations on Tuesday during the first day of the 15-day modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in the five areas.
Eleazar told police commanders in these areas to intensify police visibility in public markets and other places of convergence so MECQ rules can be strictly implemented.
During the first day of the MECQ in Metro Manila and in the four provinces, Eleazar said people were seen out of their homes and roaming in places of convergence even if they were among those listed as Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APOR).
Eleazar said some eateries also still offered dine-in services despite the prohibition. Limited dine-ins in eateries, fast food chains, and restaurants were allowed under general community quarantine (GCQ), but not under MECQ, he stressed.
Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan shifted to MECQ, from GCQ, effective Tuesday on the appeal of the Philippine College of Physicians for a time out to re-calibrate the government’s strategy against COVID-19 because the country’s healthcare system was already “overwhelmed” by the pandemic.
Eleazar said policemen will be aided by barangay watchmen (tanod) and members of city and municipal public order and safety personnel in the strict enforcement of the MECQ rules.
“We are all into this, in the fight against the coronavirus disease. The national government and the local government units should work together in reducing the coronavirus infection rate to a significant level,” said Eleazar.
“Otherwise, the intent of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s approval of MECQ in the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Laguna, Rizal and Cavite would be futile,” the police official also said.
Eleazar said the defiance of some people and establishments of quarantine protocols “should not be tolerated and must immediately be addressed” because the misdemeanors “are not only compromising their (violators) health safety but also their respective families and people in their communities until it would become an additional burden to our medical health workers and eventually to the government.”
On concerns that police checkpoints have led to traffic congestion, Eleazar said he has already advised commanders to conduct “modified checkpoints” when vehicles start to pile up and during rush hour.
“When we say modified checkpoint, that is random checkpoint,” said Eleazar, referring to the checking of vehicles.
“If the traffic in your area is manageable, you can check all the vehicles that are passing. But if your area is strategic and many vehicles are passing during rush hour, you do modified checkpoint,” he said.
Eleazar appealed anew for public cooperation in the implementation of MECQ protocols to slow down local transmission of the virus and bring down the number of infected individuals.