By Reuben Pio Martinez
In a Facebook post published last week, the Biñan City’s Public Order and Safety Office (POSO) reminded the public that the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is no joking matter. 74 curfew violators marched nighttime in two long lines, with straw ropes tied to their waists. These individuals were said to have been caught drinking and bathing around the Laguna de Bay area.
POSO’s Chief of Operations Rommel Mitra Lim explained that the violators were tied to have them “observe” social distancing, and were forced to march for at most 9 km. Prior to this, they were all taken to the parking area of Biñan City Hall on foot, where they were lectured by Lim himself for everything to learn about the ECQ and the pandemic. Once finished, they are sanitized properly to ensure that none have transmitted the disease, and are escorted home with the use of the municipality’s trucks.
The ends and the means
POSO has been adopting extreme measures to have residents abide by the quarantine’s regulations. Earlier photos and videos, posted by POSO between late March and early April, showed that violators would be gathered to exercise for three rounds. A series of push-ups, jumping jacks, and a duck walk session were executed to the violators, which the entire process would last about 20 to 30 minutes.
On the purpose behind the posts, Lim explained that this was to remind all citizens the seriousness surrounding their current situation.
“Patuloy na sa aming pag-aaral, marami parin ang mga bumabalewala sa ipinatutupad na ECQ (From our observations, many people still don’t take the ECQ seriously),” Lim said in an interview with [P]. He also noted that this was not the first time the office caught several curfew violators. The number varies each day.
All of this is done to enforce Executive Order (EO) No. 17, Series of 2020, which implements the guidelines of the ECQ in the city, and where it is explicitly stated that all forms of mass gatherings are strictly discouraged.
The EO has been active since March 23, 2020, when a citywide total lockdown forced residents to not leave the city, except for the identified frontliners in the document, and those from neighboring cities were not allowed to access Biñan.
In Article I, Section 1, it explained in detail about the liquor ban for the entirety of the ECQ, in which under no circumstances, any Biñan citizen is allowed to purchase alcoholic products. Enforced by the city’s branch of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and barangay officials, proper penalties would be given in accordance with existing laws.
Sanctions for the first offense would have violators detained for a day with written warning, while minors would be given detention and parent counseling. The second offense would force curfew violators to partake in community service at the command center, and the third would lead them to receive a case from PNP. It is in succeeding and repeating offenses when POSO would take action, as explained by Lim.
Who watches the watchmen?
Biñan City resident Ace Guico commented that the given punishments were fine, but suggested that it might be best for the office to incarcerate them for a month at least. Guico, who shared a video of one instance when the curfew violators were engaged in a duck walk activity that was broadcasted through Facebook, added that he hoped that the violators would learn something from their experience.
Guico is not the only resident to somewhat praise these measures. Many commenters have also expressed relief that the city hall has taken all necessary steps in ensuring that order is maintained in the community. Some have gone even as far as suggesting the office to not provide any form of financial aid for the families of the violators, while some have pointed out that the activities might make them more vulnerable to transmitting the disease, despite all precautionary measures taken.
Since the ECQ’s implementation, several other LGUs have taken it upon themselves to enforce order with stricter practices, with most of them featuring abuse towards civilians.
In Brgy. Gatid, Sta. Cruz, Laguna last March 21, 2020, barangay captain Eric Ambrocio showed through social media how the barangay resorted to placing the detainees in a dog cage after they were said to have cursed at the officers. In Pandacaqui, Mexico, Pampanga, the barangay captain of the area, Christopher Bombing Punzalan drew criticism after he posted videos of LGBTQ+ violators forced to perform lewd acts in front of a minor.
In Malainen Bago, Naic, Cavite, barangay captain Noel Catibanan and other municipality officials enacted a punishment where violators would be forced into coffins. In Metro Manila, a video showed that residents of Muslim Town faced physical abuse from Sta. Cruz Manila police chief Lt. Col. Rey Magdaluyo, who was originally asked to help maintain order in the area.
On whether or not POSO would be implementing stricter punishments, Lim personally hoped that it would not come to that. Though he said that he understood that citizens have their personal reasons for going outside of their homes, Lim emphasized that people need to know that they should not be going around.
“Hanggang doon na lamang at ayaw kong dagdagan pa ang kanilang pinagdaraanan dahil sa krisis. (We won’t go any further for now, and I don’t want to add more burdens because of this crisis.),” Lim stated. [P]