Eleazar: Curfew violators will no longer be detained

CURFEW violators in time of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) will still be arrested but they will no longer be detained, Joint Task Force Coronavirus Shield (JTF-CV Shield) commander and the Philippine National Police (PNP) deputy chief for operations Police Lieutenant General Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar clarified on Sunday, March 29.

Eleazar said following appeals from the local government units (LGU) through the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) they made adjustment on the apprehension of curfew violators which is part of the home quarantine rules being implemented in Luzon.

“We decided to be a little lenient against curfew violators by allowing them to go home after booking them instead of detaining them until they posted bail, out of compassion, and the lack of suitable jail facilities as well as government prosecutors that would attend to the cases that would be filed since the DOJ (Department of Justice) is only manned by limited number of personnel,” he said.

“The agreement was that the names and circumstances of the arrest would be documented and that the charges would later be pursued after the ECQ is lifted and the situation normalizes,” he added.

Eleazar said PNP chief Archie Gamboa has approved the following guidelines for the conduct of arrest of curfew violators:

· To coordinate with the Local Chief Executives (LCEs) for the identification of the temporary detention center big enough to observe social distancing for arrested curfew violators;

· To coordinate with the LCEs on proper disposition of arrested curfew violators based on the 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; and

· No physical punishment must be imposed on arrested curfew violators.

Eleazar said they may also use the e-inquest project of the DOJ for the conduct of a virtual inquest proceedings using any online platform for video calls and conferences and all available electronic communications, but in the absence of which, regular filing will take place.

Since March 17, when President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Luzon under ECQ, a measure to stop or prevent the spread of the 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the police has arrested a total of 42,826 curfew violators in which 12,094 were in the National Capital Region (NCR).

While the ECQ is only in Luzon, a number of LGUs in the Visayas and Mindanao have already implemented their own lockdowns to protect their constituents from the spread of the virus.

Eleazar said the task force which is the enforcement arm of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases composed of the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fire Protection, cannot fully loosen its grip of the curfew violators as it will defeat the purpose of the ECQ which is to keep the people at home to contain the virus.

“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,” he said.

“Based on our assessment, the number of curfew violators will just continue to rise if we become lenient on them. This will definitely defeat the purpose of the declaration of the Enhanced Community Quarantine which President Duterte approved purposely to contain the COVID-19,” he added.

Eleazar reiterated their appeal to the public to stay home for their own and their families’ sake.

“We look up to all the frontliners as heroes in this war against COVID-19. But ordinary people can be heroes too by staying at their home as their own contribution in this war. Once we win this war, you can proudly tell the stories to your grandchildren about your contributions, how you helped the government to win the war against COVID-19,” he said.

“The virus does not move. People move it. We stop moving, the virus stops. It’s that simple,” he added. (SunStar Philippines)

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