POLICE deputy chief for operations Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, chief of the Joint Task Force Corona Virus, on Tuesday ordered the dismantling of all barangay checkpoints in national highways and provincial roads.
Eleazar said only PNP checkpoints shall be maintained in highways and roads, noting that barangay checkpoints have been pinpointed as the reason for the delay in the delivery and movement of basic commodities.
Eleazar said his order was in response to the directive of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa amid the continuing implementation of an enhanced community quarantine in Luzon and in parts of Visayas and Mindanao.
Luzon has entered the third week of a 30-day ECQ which started last March 17. The President ordered the region-wide lockdown one day after the community quarantine in Metro Manila started on March 16.
Under the ECQ, government required mandatory home quarantine for residents, ordered work stoppage, suspended public transport and school classes, and imposed local travel restrictions to and from covered areas.
Gamboa said: “The recent directive is that on national highways, only the PNP is going to establish checkpoints. Barangay checkpoints are restricted within their barangays. If their barangays involves national, city or municipal highways or roads, then they are not authorized to conduct checkpoints.”
Guidelines under the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases mandate the free movement of delivery trucks when passing through checkpoints to ensure the flow of food and other goods during the quarantine period.
“Some of these barangay checkpoints are implementing their own rules which are clearly in defiance of the IATF guidelines,” Eleazar said, adding: “We in the JTF CV Shield have been receiving similar complaints from cargo owners and drivers and even from people who are supposed to be exempted from home quarantine but were being barred in barangay checkpoints.”
“The Chief PNP also approved our recommendation for the chiefs of police and station commanders to make sure that the IATF guidelines prevail over the rules and regulations of the LGUs. This is the reason why we have been providing the local commanders the regular updates on IATF Guidelines particularly on APOR,” he also said.
Eleazar said barangay checkpoints shall only be allowed in interior roads, provided that such barangay checkpoints are supervised by the PNP.
Cabinet Secretary and IATF spokesman Karlo Nograles said a technical working group (TWG) had been formed to come up with a set of parameters that will be used to determine if the Luzon-wide ECQ should be expanded, lifted or sustained.
Nograles, in a virtual briefing, said the Department of Health (DOH) is the head of the TWG. Recommendations of the working group will be subject to the approval, amendment or modification of the IATF.
Nograles allayed fears of an expanded lockdown of up to 60 days in the entire country as he branded as fake news a viral social media post stating the same.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año has said that extending the quarantine period is not advisable since this will have adverse impact on the economy.
Eleazar said that while the situation has improved over the past days, there are still some problems brought about by the implementation by local government officials of their rules that are sometimes contradictory to IATF guidelines.
Eleazar said a total of 71,540 people have been accosted for violation of the ECQ in Luzon and in parts of Visayas and Mindanao from March 17 to 30 during the first two weeks of the lockdown.
Eleazar said 48,423 of the number were merely warned; 19,340 were arrested and 3,839 were fined.
Eleazar said 39,866 of the total violators are from Luzon (29,314 warned, 8,490 arrested and 2,062 were fined). Of which, Eleazar said 17,613 are from Metro Manila (13,355 warned, 2,559 arrested and 1,699 fined).
Eleazar also reported that 6,871 vehicles were apprehended for similar violations during the period. He said 6,203 of these apprehended vehicles were from Luzon, including 2,102 in Metro Manila.
He likewise reported that a total of 601 suspects have been arrested by authorities for hoarding, profiteering and manipulation of prices also from March 17 to 30. He said 415 of the suspects were nabbed in Luzon, including 51 in Metro Manila.
Meanwhile, Eleazar said index crimes throughout the country have declined by 51.2 percent from March 17 to 30 during the implementation of the ECQ, compared to the previous two weeks.
Index crimes are crimes against people like murder, homicide, physical injury and rape, robbery and theft.
Eleazar said there were 916 index crimes from March 17 to 30, way below the 1,878 index crimes recorded from March 3 to 16.
In Luzon, there was 59 percent decrease in index crimes – from 1,024 cases from March 3-16 to 419 cases from March 17-30. In Metro Manila, index crimes reduced by 57.3 percent, from 403 to 172. – With Jocelyn Montemayor