MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday vowed to take decisive action against agitators and organizers of illegal mass actions that violate existing laws amid the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Earlier, 20 members of an urban poor group were arrested for staging a mass protest in Quezon City.
In a statement, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas said members of Kadamay led by Jocy Lopez, 47, of Sitio San Roque, refused to disperse as mass gatherings are prohibited under the guidelines of the ECQ.
The group assembled on the Edsa northbound lane in front of the Avida Show Room to demand food relief packages from the Quezon City government.
The group’s members are now under the custody of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD)-Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit.
They will be charged with violation of Republic Act (RA) 11332 on Response to Notifiable Diseases, Epidemics, and Health Events of Public Health Concern; RA 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act; Presidential Proclamation No. 922 (State of Public Health Emergency in the Philippines); and Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code for disobedience to persons in authority.
“The safest place to be right now is at home. So please, stay at home. Let us end the spread of this pandemic together. We cannot do this alone.” Sinas said.
Meanwhile, the Quezon City government denied reports that no food packs have been distributed for residents of Sitio San Roque, which is under the jurisdiction of Barangay Bagong Pag-asa.
“In fact, there is continuous distribution of food packs throughout the city, both from the local government and the barangays to ensure that affected families are looked after during this crisis period. As per COA (Commission on Audit) guidelines, all recipients of food packs must be properly documented and the city government wishes to assure the public that this is strictly being complied with, and documents are available for scrutiny in the interest of transparency,” it said in a statement.
Based on interviews conducted by the city’s Task Force Disiplina led by action officer Rannie Ludovica, the residents who were along North Edsa were allegedly informed by an individual purportedly from a TV crew that “food packs would be distributed to them this morning and that the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) would allegedly be distributing cash.”
After reaching the area, the residents discovered that there was no food or cash distribution.
“Instead, they were allegedly instigated by yet to be determined personalities to hold a rally and claim that the local government has not distributed any food packs in their area. Upon further questioning however, some residents acknowledged that they did receive food packs,” it added.
It added that the QCPD restored order and arrested the alleged instigators for violation of rules under the enhanced community quarantine, particularly on holding mass gatherings.
Mayor Joy Belmonte, however, appealed to QCPD to release the detainees for the meantime for humanitarian reasons. (PNA)