MANILA - The Philippine National Police must show it is able to enforce quarantine measures without favoring anyone, a lawyer said Monday as authorities are set to monitor social media for possible COVID-19 protocol violations.
The Joint Task Force COVID Shield on Saturday ordered all police commanders to monitor social media for violations of quarantine protocols, which include drinking sessions and other forms of celebrations.
The move is not only an "issue of privacy" but also an "issue of due process of law, said lawyer Ray Paolo Santiago, executive director of the Ateneo Human Rights Center.
"The PNP has to be able to show that it is fair and objective in applying and enforcing the law against everyone," he told ANC.
"It’s a question of whether they have the moral authority to actually start saying we will monitor violations."
In April, Metro Manila Police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas earned public ire after photos of his "mañanita" for his birthday were posted on the official page of the regional police office.
Former PNP chief Archie Gamboa recently faced accusations that he held a party in Baguio City supposedly ahead of his retirement.
"Unless these kinds of situations are properly addressed by the PNP the common persons would be of course wary on how this is going to be implemented against us who are without any power within the PNP," Santiago said.
Monitoring public social media posts is within the power and function of the PNP but proper validation must be made, he added.
"These can be used as pieces of evidence of maybe a probable violation but in line with the due process of law, it is not automatic that these people will be fined or already be charged. There must be proper validation about the context and whether those pictures were recent or not," he said.
Santiago added that possible quarantine measure violations should be reported to the police instead of the PNP allotting resources to monitor social media accounts.
"To allot resources to just go through all social media accounts then that of course would not only be surveillance, but that is a waste of resources," he said.
"I don’t think at this time human resources should be allocated to this kind of endeavor."
Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, chief of Joint Task Force COVID-19 Shield, said the police would focus on complaints sent online and viral posts showing quarantine violations as it lacks manpower to scour millions of social media accounts.