Cops allegedly trespass into Taguig condo, accost residents over COVID-19 lockdown violations

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 20 2020 11:26 AM | Updated as of Apr 20 2020 05:04 PM

Pacific Plaza Towers. ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) - The management of a Taguig City condominium on Monday threatened legal action against “uniformed, armed, and apparently agitated policemen” who allegedly entered the property and “accosted and shouted” at residents.

In a letter to his fellow residents and unit owners, Pacific Plaza Towers Condominium Corp. president Erwin Elechicon said 4 police officers entered the compound on Sunday afternoon "without some form or warrant or authorization, which would be trespassing."

The "uniformed, armed and apparently agitated" policemen supposedly received information that the Pacific Plaza Towers failed to practice quarantine measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, Elechicon said. 

Led by Maj. Joseph Austria, the policemen entered the premises over the objections of security guards who were threatened with arrest, and proceeded to the garden and pool area where 6 to 8 residents were "all practicing social distancing, none of them using the pool facilities, and just walking or sitting away from each other," Elechicon said. 

"The armed policemen, and particularly the Major (who did not wear a mask) accosted some of the residents there, berated them loudly for not following the guidelines, and curtly shouted at them to go away," he said in the letter. 

These actions "were extremely upsetting, clearly inappropriate, and possibly illegal," he said. 

The incident was caught on video and was widely shared online on Sunday night, and came on the heels of the military’s admission it was preparing for a “Martial Law-style” enforcement of the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown.

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Elechicon said Pacific Plaza Towers earlier coordinated with village officials about increasing the supervision for social distancing in its walkways, asked residents to cover their faces when they leave their units, and offered masks to those who did not have one. 

He said management sought the barangay's guidance on keeping the area open "for people to walk and sunbathe as gym is closed and swimming is not allowed."

"The 'enemy' is out there, and it is called COVID-19. It is certainly not us at Pacific Plaza Towers, where we all feel that we are part of the same team, with the same objective -- to remove the scourge of COVID-19 from our lives," said Elechicon. 

"We do not deserve this; and we certainly should expect an explanation, an assurance of our safety, and due respect from authorities." 

The condominium's legal counsel "is already working on the appropriate legal action" -- including a restraining order, criminal complaint and civil action -- which "we will immediately bring to court (or to whichever appropriate authority, possibly in the next 2 days," Elechicon said. 

The Pacific Plaza Towers also notified the embassies and security groups of the residents, some of whom are foreigners, about the incident, he said. 

The management will also double its security staff at entrances, Elechicon said. 

In a statement released Monday, Joint Task Force COVID Shield Commander Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the local police proceeded to the area after receiving reports that some people are gathering at the common pool in violation of quarantine guidelines.

"While PMaj. Austria was talking to Board President Gemma Gemayel about the complaints the local police had received, he spotted groups of people gathering at the common area and at the swimming pool which prompted him to caution them that they are violating the home quarantine and social distancing rules. There was no gun-pointing incident that happened," Eleazar said.

Eleazar said Austria will be asked to explain and the incident will be investigated.

He reminded the public that there should be no double standards in the implementation of quarantine protocols.

"There must be no double standard in the implementation of the ECQ Guideline. Otherwise, we would be sending a wrong message to our kababayan na 'Kapag mahirap ka, aarestuhin at kakasuhan ka agad pero kapag mayaman, madami pang protocol na dapat susundin ang ating kapulisan," Eleazar said.

"The ECQ Guideline is plain and simple: Stay at home and observe social distancing when going out of your house - anytime, anywhere, and regardless of your social status. Thus, that condo residential place and the people living there are not exempted," he added.

In urging administators of condominiums and subdivisions to observe home quarantine and social distancing at all times, Eleazar warned that authorities "will not hesitate to enforce the law in your areas."

Without mentioning the Pacific Plaza Towers incident, the Taguig City government issued a reminder to all subdivisions and residential buildings in the city to abide by ECQ rules following the latest directive of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"The ECQ (enhanced community quarantinei) rules and regulations apply equally to all communities. Patas patas po dapat (it should be fair)," the city government said in its Facebook page.

Some 50 million residents of Luzon are under home quarantine until April 30 to stop the spread of COVID-19.