MANILA (UPDATE) - Interior Secretary Eduardo Año has ordered an investigation into the complaint of a private condominium in Taguig City against policemen who "accosted and shouted" at some of its residents over the weekend for alleged violation of quarantine guidelines, an official said Monday.
Speaking to ANC, Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya of the Department of Interior and Local Government said both the police and administration officials of the Pacific Plaza Towers Condominium Corp. will be given a chance to explain should charges be pressed.
"The Secretary has already directed an investigation, ordered an investigation into this incident," Malaya said.
"We will give them due process. And everybody will be given the opportunity to state his or her argument before the Prosecutor's Office and eventually to the courts, if ever this reaches the court," he said.
Malaya said common areas inside gated subdivisions and private condominium buildings are considered public areas, and therefore, quarantine protocols set by government must be observed.
"In so far as we're concerned, common areas in building such as that one, condominiums, are public places, and therefore, they have to conform to the guidelines set by the national government in so far as the prohibition against mass gathering and social distancing is concerned," he explained.
"It is the responsibility of the local government units and the Philippine National Police also to implement this in these areas," Malaya added.
Malaya reiterated that COVID-19 does not choose between the rich and the poor, and so quarantine protocols should be followed by everyone.
"Crimes may happen anywhere. It may happen in private areas, it may happen to public areas. So it would be a disservice to the public and it would be an abrogation of the role of the Philippine National Police and the local government units if we do not implement these measures in common areas of what is called as private buildings," he said.
"And since this disease does not choose between the rich or the poor, if we are implementing this strictly in the slums, if we are implementing this strictly in depressed areas in Metro Manila, why shouldn't we implement it in gated subdivisions or in private condominiums?"
According to Malaya, based on information he received from the PNP, the policemen being complained against asked permission to enter the premises.
"But as a matter of policy, based on what I heard from the Philippine National Police, they did not just barge in. They asked for permission to come in, they were allowed to go in and when they saw that the quarantine policies were not being followed, they informed management about this and required the people to go back to their units because, as I said, a common area is a public place and we have a prohibition against mass gathering," he said.
Taguig City Mayor Lino Cayetano, on Monday night, said the city government has also conducted an initial investigation on the incident.
Based on the account of the police officers involved in the incident, Cayetano said they are just doing what they have to do in cases where there is violation of quarantine protocols.
"So the police officer, from the lobby, could see the swimming pool. So he states that he went into the swimming pool area, he talked to the residents. The residents did not mind him. He asked them to leave and to vacate (the area). A foreigner started shouting at him and debating him. They appealed for them to leave, they did not leave," Cayetano said in a video posted on Facebook.
"He started telling everyone that they have to leave, and have to leave immediately. This is what was caught on video," he added.
He also said he is still waiting for the accounts of other parties involved in the incident.
"I will hold people accountable for both actions. The citizens, the building, the PNP," Cayetano said.
Cayetano reiterated the need to follow quarantine protocols, which applies to all residents.
"So I appeal to the citizens of Barangay Fort Bonifacio, citizens of the City of Taguig, the same rule applies to tenement building in Barangay Western Bicutan, to BLC which is a government housing in Barangay Ususan, as to any building in Barangay Fort Bonifacio," he said.
"Foreigner, Filipino, rich, poor. The virus does not choose its victims. It does not choose how it transmits. We have to all follow the guidelines of the enhance community quarantine," Cayetano added.
The management of Pacific Plaza 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."
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.