MANILA — Law enforcers in Quezon City are "not out to indiscriminately arrest people" using a memorandum that summarizes laws and protocols on containing the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Joy Belmonte said Monday.
Certain groups on messaging app Viber "demonized" the memorandum issued last week by floating false provisions like the alleged mandatory wearing of masks inside homes where authorities could supposedly barge in, and the purported arrest of those who are out for work beyond curfew hours, she said.
"We exercise maximum tolerance. We exercise the law based on reason, common sense, and the degree in which this particular violation affects others," Belmonte told ANC.
"We are not out to indiscriminately arrest people just because we want to show people we are powerful. We are not that kind of government. We do not have that kind of record in Quezon City," she added.
The mayor said she issued the memo after authorities forcefully accosted a fish vendor for failure to wear an anti-virus mask.
"There was a need for us to issue guidelines to our law enforcers, primarily with regard to the proper procedures that have to be undertaken when apprehending an individual. The intent of this really is to prevent abuse of power," she said.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU'RE APPREHENDED?
Quarantine violators are brought to police stations. If they admit guilt, they are released immediately after paying a fine. Those who contest the charges are also released immediately, provided that they will be "available for a subpoena," said the mayor.
Parents of minors who loiter past the 10 pm to 5 am curfew are summoned to a seminar. They are fined if their children violate curfew on the second and third offense, she said.
Belmonte said she was also "willing to change the wording" of the memorandum, particularly the term "warrantless arrest", following a dialogue with her constituents.
"I'm sorry if they caused so much misunderstanding or apprehension and they alarmed a lot of people. But really, the intent is precisely to inform the public: 'these are your rights, this is the way things should be.'
Belmonte said she was also "trying to get the resources together" to increase the city's 300 personnel for tracing those who had close contact with coronavirus patients.
Quezon City, Metro Manila's most populous area, as of Sunday had confirmed 5,505 cases of the novel coronavirus disease. This is the third highest COVID-19 tally in the country, next to that of Cebu City with 6,573 cases and Manila with 5,753 cases, according to the health department's website.