MANILA – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Friday said it is ready for stricter implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año made the remark after President Rodrigo R. Duterte warned that he will order the police and the military to take over the enforcement of the ECQ in Luzon as some Filipinos continue to ignore quarantine protocols.

“We will be stricter in the implementation of the lockdown. I will also direct the LGUs (local government units) to very strict and impose penalties on all violators of the lockdown. The PNP (Philippine National Police) will deploy more teams to arrest violators of ECQ, people involved in gambling activities, drinking in public, ‘tupadas’ (cockfighting), etc,” he said in a message to the Philippine News Agency.

Año said they are still awaiting specific instructions from the President regarding the matter.

He said local government officials and village chief found violating quarantine protocols will be arrested.

“(When caught in) the act of violating the law, the PNP can arrest anyone including barangay officials. We will be prepared. If madami pa ding pasaway (many are still violating rules), we can also deploy soldiers if the situation would warrant,” he added.

Meanwhile, Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield commander, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, said he said the police force is always ready for this scenario.

“We have various contingency plans in every quarantine level– ready to be implemented anywhere and anytime,” Eleazar said.

In a statement, PNP chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa, said the police force supports the President’s intention to “decisively enforce a total lockdown for the entire period under the ECQ”.

Gamboa said some local government executives have signified approval on the imposition of tougher measures against quarantine violators.

“Maybe some violators feel they can get away with our enforcement of quarantine rules and local ordinances, but only because we are not under ideal conditions to detain all law offenders, except to complete the mandatory requirements of documentation and booking Trust me, their brush with the law today will not go unpunished. There will be a day of reckoning for all lawbreakers when we shall find the appropriate time to directly file criminal charges in court to begin their agony of criminal prosecution,” he added.

While stressing that police officers have been compassionate to certain situations involving people’s need for food and basic necessities, he said some still willfully violate government orders to remain indoors and add to the burden of the police force.

“Worse and more troublesome for the police, it is taking its toll on police personnel manning the Quarantine Control Points who risk exposure to unusually heavy crowding of unauthorized persons. As of today, there had been 65 cases of confirmed infection among PNP personnel, 40 of whom remain in sick bay, 14 are under home quarantine, eight have recovered, while three have succumbed,” he said.

Gamboa added that a crackdown on unauthorized travel is now imposed by the Highway Patrol Group, National Capital Region Police Office and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) along major thoroughfares in Metro Manila.

“I have issued instructions to all Police Regional Offices to strictly implement the same prohibition in their areas of responsibility following the guidelines of the (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) that categorically identifies Authorized Persons Outside of Residence, with emphasis on special consideration for frontline workers in the medical and healthcare, security, essential services, agricultural and utilities sectors,” he added.

In coordination with LGUs, he said PNP line units are also instructed to crack down on illegal activities, that constitute violation of rules on physical distancing and gathering of persons, including illegal cockfight, card games, mahjong, and drinking sessions in public places.

“I call on all Regional Directors to put action to the strong words of the President. I expect all of you to support this. Finally, I share President Duterte’s call on all Filipinos for a little more sacrifice and greater optimism of better days ahead. With our unity as a people who believe in God’s grace, together we will heal as one,” Gamboa said. (PNA)

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