MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has issued a directive calling on police to arrest people who refuse to wear masks properly after a meeting with his Covid-19 task force where he was the only person seen not wearing a mask.
Those who do not wear their masks properly or at all will possibly be arrested pending the discussion by the Department of the Interior and Local Government with the Philippine National Police and the local government units as instructed by the President.
The DILG will have to work with local government units and the police in order to find common ground with regards to local ordinances on mask-wearing guidelines and penalties for its violation.
Currently, arrests are only made “if there is resistance to authority” and violations of the Revised Penal Code.
“But in light of the President’s pronouncements, we may need to do some recalibration and make the necessary preparations because if we do make arrests, we also need to prepare our detention cells because there may be a larger number of people detained than before,” Usec. Jonathan Malaya said.
“That’s why we need to make the necessary coordination with the Philippine National Police and with the local government units so that we can safely and efficiently implement the directive of the president and make the necessary guidelines so that this will not be abused by our police authority,” Malaya added.
Malaya said, for him, it would be “premature” to make a statement on the wisdom of Duterte’s directive, and the more practical thing for them to do is to meet with the PNP and LGUs on possible strategies for safe and efficient implementation of the order.
Duterte’s orders, given during an address late Wednesday evening, contrasted with his justice secretary’s suggestion last month to impose the penalty of community service to quarantine violators instead of jail time or fines.
Thousands of people have been punished for violating Covid-19 rules since the end of March, when restrictions were tightened in the capital and its surrounding provinces after a spike in cases.
The Justice Secretary and police chief have urged officers to fine offenders or make them do community service instead of arresting them, following the death of a man who was forced to do 100 squats as punishment for breaking curfew.
Duterte said the police should get tough on rule breakers and arrest those not wearing a mask properly – including those who leave their nose exposed.
“My orders to the police are those who are not wearing their masks properly… arrest them and detain them, investigate why they are doing it,” the President said.
“It’s not for me, it’s not for us. It’s for the interest of the country so you won’t infect and you won’t be infected.”
Reporting by: Marcus Perez
Edited by: Christina Salazar