Video courtesy of Department of Health
MANILA — The Department of the Interior and Local Government on Thursday said police issued warnings to nearly 50,000 people nationwide for violating health protocols on the first week of March, but arrests have been kept at a minimum to ensure physical distancing in jails.
Health authorities earlier pointed to quarantine violations as a cause for the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, as the country marked a year since various lockdown levels were enforced.
“May problema na nga kulungan natin puno na (Our jails are already full). We do not want to add to that. The objective of what we are doing right now is to make sure that people comply. If we do not penalize naman walang maniniwala sa atin (no one will believe us),” DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said during a media briefing with the Department of Health
During the peak of COVID-19 cases last year, COVID-19 clusters were detected in crowded jails.
Malaya said the Philippine National Police has more than 72,000 personnel deployed across the country.
From February 27 to March 5 this year, police accosted 47,536 individuals nationwide. Majority or 33,893 were merely warned and 552 were arrested, while the rest had to pay fines.
The official explained that some local government units penalize a first offense with a warning, a fine for the 2nd offense, and arrest for a third-time violator. Others do not arrest violators and only require fines.
“It is not the policy of government to make arrests but it happens,” he said.
“For example last year sa kasagsagan ng curfew maraming lasing pauwi, na-checkpoint sila, na-curfew. Dahil lasing nakipagtalo pa sa pulis. That’s the only time we have arrests,” he explained, adding that violators are usually released the next day once they have sobered up.
(For example last year when the curfew was first imposed, there were drunk people who got accosted at checkpoints. Since they were drunk, they argued with the police. That’s the only time we have arrests.)
Malaya said the only time they send a violator to inquest proceedings, which determines whether or not the person will undergo trial, is in case of disobedience to authority. If the person refuses or argues with the police, that’s the only time they make an arrest.
The official reminded the public to continue following health protocols even inside their homes since COVID-19 clusters have been detected among family members.
He said Interior Secretary Eduardo Año was criticized before when he suggested the wearing of face masks inside the house but it is important now with infections spreading within households.