Joseph Peter Calleja , Manila
Updated: April 21, 2020 08:34 AM GMT
The Philippine government has drafted in the military to ensure the Covid-19 lockdown is obeyed. (Photo: Vincent Go)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ratcheted up his government’s efforts against the coronavirus by deploying the military to crack down on quarantine violators.
Armed Forces spokesman Edgard Arevalo said on April 21 that the president had called in the military in response to requests from local officials who think a military presence is necessary for more stringent enforcement of quarantine rules imposed across Luzon, the largest and most populated island in the country.
He said the military was now working with the police to enforce a “martial law-like lockdown” if many residents in the national capital Manila continue to flout government orders to stay at home.
“When directed, we are ready to take on the task of enforcing discipline and order where there is a breakdown in both, and [if] the people do not heed government pleas to observe community quarantining,” the military spokesman said.
The police warned earlier that no more warnings would be given before arresting quarantine violators.
“Police have warned at least 96,000 residents, but many still are on the streets [of Manila],“ police chief Archie Gamboa said.
“When we liken the lockdown to ‘martial law,’ we are emphasizing that arrests will be made. The public must show that they are capable of behaving. Otherwise, we will not issue warnings anymore. We will immediately arrest violators.”
He warned that facilities have been prepared to house arrested people. He also welcomed the presence of the military to enforce the measures.
Meanwhile, Camillian missionaries have paraded the Blessed Sacrament through the Quezon Institute, one of the country’s Covid-19 quarantine facilities.
Wearing personal protective equipment and stoles, the Camillian fathers visited doctors, nurses and other hospital staff as well as Covid-19 patients as a gesture of moral support and to boost spirits.
The team, headed by former health secretary Paulyn Ubial, said it wanted to give spiritual nourishment to both patients and health workers at the medical facility.
As of April 20, the Philippines had recorded 6,459 Covid-19 cases with 428 deaths.