Joint task force will be stricter on curfew violators
MANILA, Philippines – Authorities said on Sunday, March 29, they will continue arresting those who violate curfew during the lockdown in Metro Manila and Luzon, in response to appeals from local government units (LGU) for them to be stricter with enforcement.
The joint task force enforcing these rules also reported more than 40,000 arrests for breaking violating curfew hours in the first 11 days of the lockdown or enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Police National Police (PNP) Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar explained that the task force earlier decided to be "a little lenient" towards curfew violators, allowing them to go home after booking procedures, instead of detaining them until they posted bail.
Eleazar, concurrently the PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, is the commander of the Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield (JTF CV Shield), the enforcement arm of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
The names of violators and circumstances of their arrest were previously just logged, with the charges against them being pursued only after the ECQ is lifted and the situation normalizes.
The lack of suitable jail facilities and the limited number of government prosecutors to attend to the cases that would be filed against those arrested also figured in this move, Eleazar said.
LGUs, however, according to him, have aired appeals for them "not to be lenient on curfew violators, citing their own hardships in convincing their constituents to follow" the ECQ guidelines.
Eleazar said there were a total of 42,826 apprehended curfew violators from March 17 to March 27, of which 12,094 were from Metro Manila. He added that some LGUs in the Visayas and Mindanao have also implemented their own lockdowns.
"Just imagine if, shall we say a quarter of these violators are already virus carriers, they will not only endanger the health and the lives of our policemen and other people manning the quarantine control points but also the health workers and other frontliners who are exempted from the quarantine," argued Eleazar.
If they continue being lenient on violators, he added, "the number of curfew violators will just continue to rise" and it "will definitely defeat the purpose of the declaration of" the ECQ.
As a result, Eleazar said that arrests and the filing of cases versus curfew violators "will continue." They "will be taken to the nearest police stations for investigation and filing of the cases."
To aid in the filing of charges, Eleazar announced that they will do virtual or online inquest proceedings using the e-inquest project of the Department of Justice, which had already issued general rules for this to prosecutors nationwide.
For police stations without internet connection, "regular direct filing will be done by the police investigators," he said.
The PNP also approved the JTF CV Shield's recommendations in relation to arrests due to curfew violations:
- Police and local chief executives should identify temporary detention centers "big enough to observe social distancing for arrested curfew violators."
- Police and local chief executives should coordinate on the proper disposition of arrested curfew violators based on penalties stipulated in the LGU's ordinances.
- If the curfew violators will be released over a decision that the regular filing of the case will be done after the ECQ, curfew violators "must be held for a maximum of 12 hours while being admonished so as to deter them from repeating the offense."
- No physical punishment must be imposed on arrested curfew violators.