Military, police role to maintain order considered if situation worsens
MANILA (UPDATE) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday ordered barangay officials to "restrain" and "arrest" people unvaccinated against COVID-19 who refuse to "stay put", as the Philippines battled an uptick anew in coronavirus infections.
Duterte, in a taped meeting with officials, ordered barangay captains to look for unvaccinated people and "request them or order them, if you may, to stay put."
"And if he refuses, he goes out of the house, and goes around in the community or wherever magpunta (he goes), he can be restrained. And if he refuses, then the barangay captain, being a person of authority, is empowered now to arrest the recalcitrant persons," Duterte said.
He said barangay captains "can also mobilize civilians and give them the task officially, probably written."
"They now become agents of a person in authority," he said.
Duterte acknowledged some lawyers "are saying that we cannot restrain" unvaccinated people.
"I said the ministrant functions of government is to come up with measures to protect public health, public interest, public order, public safety," argued Duterte, a former prosecutor.
"In the absence of a law, ang Presidente (the President) is called upon to act. And because it is a national emergency, it is my position that we can restrain," he said.
The President said those who disagree with the directive "can file cases."
"I’ll be happy to answer. Meron naman akong kaso sa ICC, eh 'di ipatong na ninyo, para isang sagutan na lang pagdating ng panahon," he said, referring to the International Criminal Court's inquiry into his drug war.
(I already have a case at the ICC. File it on top of that, so I'll just answer them simultaneously when the time comes.)
"I hate to say this word, these words. Pero (But) being the President, ultimately, I am responsible for the safety and well-being of every Filipino," Duterte said.
The health department on Thursday reported 17,220 new coronavirus infections and the country's highest ever COVID-19 positivity rate at 36.9 percent.
It announced earlier in the day the detection of 29 additional cases of the highly transmissible omicron variant, raising the country's total to 43.
The Philippines has fully vaccinated at least 51 million of its 109 million population.
DUTERTE SAYS TO TAP POLICE, MILITARY IN WORST CASE SCENARIO
During Thursday's meeting, Duterte said he invited the police and military because he wanted to talk to them.
"If it comes, the worst that can happen in our country, it will be a business for the military and the police to maintain order and help the civilians," Duterte said.
"Whatever, sarado ang mga hospital, they are refusing new admissions kasi ano na, it can become, there might be some, alam mo na. We want to help, and if you just can wait, we will mobilize all persons," he continued.
(Whatever, if the hospitals are closed, they are refusing new admissions because — it can become, there might be some, you know.)
Duterte added, "Kung maggrabe ito na lahat tinamaan, bahay por bahay, hindi sabihing nag-martial law, not that, the military has to sacrifice. Kunin nila iyong ano, kung saan nila dalhin, o pulis."
(If it worsens, everyone is hit, all households, it will not be martial law, not that, but the military has to sacrifice. They should get the—bring it, or the police.)
Duterte did not elaborate on this.
"Hindi lang kasi nakaintindi ang publiko ng role ng military pati pulis," he said instead.
(The public does not understand the role of the military and the police.)
Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana, earlier in the day, denied an online rumor that government would supposedly declare martial law to stump a spike in new COVID-19 cases.
In a voice clip spreading on Messenger, an anonymous woman urged the public to stock up on goods as she claimed, without proof, that the country would be paced under military rule.
"Rumor about declaring ML (martial law) is fake news, not true," Lorenzana said in a message to reporters.