Digos police makes nurse do community work for lack of quarantine pass
DAVAO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippine Nurses Association Davao Region Council XI and its Davao del Sur chapter condemned the Digos City police for ordering a nurse to serve a two-hour community service after she supposedly violated the city’s general community quarantine rules.
In an open letter posted on Saturday, May 9, the groups said that the nurse, whom they did not identify, worked at a private health facility in Digos City.
Police apprehended her on May 1 after they refused to accept her Philippine Regulatory Commission (PRC) and company identification cards, insisting that she must have a quarantine pass instead.
The groups narrated that the nurse and her sister were on board a tricycle when one of the patrolling police officers flagged them down in front of an appliance store along Rizal Avenue in Digos City.
“Both of them were asked to present their quarantine pass. The sister of the registered nurse showed quarantine pass while our colleague in the profession showed her PRC and company ID,” the nurses' groups said.
The nurses’ groups said that the police officer, whom they did not identify, wanted the nurse to present an employment certificate for still unclear reasons.
“(This) resulted in our colleague to be brought [to the] Digos gymnasium via patrol car despite her explanation, for her to serve the 2-hour community service for violating the city ordinance,” they said.
“On behalf of the Philippine Nurses Association Davao del Sur chapter, we strongly condemn such incident and we demand a public apology,” they added.
The nurses' groups said they were hoping that the incident will never happen again “not just to nurses but to all health workers as well.” (READ: Frontliners in a bind: Health workers fined P5,000 for backriding)
Hours after Digos City police chief, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Vici Tababa said that he has ordered an investigation on the matter, he issued a statement defending his men.
Tababa denied that the nurse had been arrested and made to do community service. He admitted, however, that the nurse was briefly held at the gymnasium for initially failing to prove that she was a medical frontliner.
Tababa said that “the actions of our police officers is just plainly for verification and not apprehension”.
Sought for comment, Marc Shane Adeva, PNA Davao del Sur president, said the nurses’ groups are standing by their statement even as he clarified that the nurse was not made to do community service, as they had earlier said.
Adeva said that the nurse was brought to the city gymnasium along with other supposed violators despite her protests.
Both Tababa and Adeva said in their separate statements that the timely arrival of the nurse’s sister at the gymnasium who showed police her certificate of employment had spared her from doing community work. The police chief said the nurse was “released immediately”.
But while Tababa insisted that the nurse did not have her company ID with her, Adeva maintained that the nurse had it, along with her PRC license, when she and her sister were apprehended.
For Tababa, the nurse’s company ID would “support her claim as one of the frontliners, showing indeed, that she is practicing her profession.”
On Sunday, Rappler asked Adeva in a text message to expound on the groups’ May 9 statement, such as what kind of community service the nurse was made to do. But Adeva replied then that the statement was their “only statement and that it holds true at that time.”
Adeva said their future actions would depend on how the police would address the issue.
"We will find out if we will receive a public apology and a guarantee that it will not happen again," Adeva said, adding that "if the police defend the wrong done, it will just add insult to injury."
Tababa said that the Digos police are “willing to address any complaints to shed light [to issues] and will answer in [the] proper forum.”
“Hence, the public is discouraged to use social media in airing their complaints,” Tababa said in his statement.
Earlier, Tababa called on the nurses' groups and the nurse herself to lodge a formal complaint and provide more information to speed up the investigation.
Tababa said that a formal complaint would be fair to all concerned as social media posts condemning the incident would not solve the problem.
“If we can work together to find out what really transpired, then it would be better,” he said.
Tababa admitted that under the police's Oplan Patagam, violators of quarantine rules are immediately taken into custody and made to do community service. Patagam means to serve “a lesson to”.
Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Latayada, the Davao del Sur police spokesperson, said that the Digos City Police Office has reported that it was already dealing with the controversy and that proper action will be taken. Latayada did not say what specific action would be undertaken by the Digos City police.
He said that the Davao del Sur Police Office will also be conducting its own investigation.
Health workers are considered Authorized Persons Outside of Residence or APOR. They are allowed by the national and local governments to go out of their homes throughout the implementation of the different community quarantines due to the nature of their work during the pandemic. Their PRC and hospital IDs should suffice.
Local governments have patterned most of their quarantine rules after those imposed by national government throughout the Luzon-wide lockdown. (READ: Health workers don’t need accreditation IDs during Luzon lockdown)
Under the executive order signed by Mayor Josef Cagas, Digos City residents going out of their homes must have a quarantine pass, in addition to having to wear masks.
Previously, the police only reprimanded residents for not possessing quarantine passes but the rising number of violators prompted it to launch Oplan Patagam.
In March, when the Davao del Sur lockdown began, a pharmacist also tried but failed twice to enter the province from nearby North Cotabato despite telling policemen manning checkpoints she was exempted from the lockdown because she was a frontliner.
It took a clarification from the provincial police office before she was allowed into Davao del Sur on her third try.
As of Sunday afternoon, the Department of Health (DOH) Davao Center for Health Development said that 2 patients have recovered in Davao City, bringing the number of recoveries in the region to 98. Davao region has 177 confirmed cases and 22 have succumbed to the coronavirus disease.
Nationwide, the number of COVID-19 cases hovered over the 11,000 mark, with more than 700 deaths and nearly 2,000 have recovered, according to the DOH as of Sunday. – Rappler.com