President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Philippine National Police to arrest, detain and file charges against barangay captains who will fail to stop COVID-19 super spreader events that flout health protocols.
"To our policemen, you are put on notice: the first person to be arrested is the barangay captain as a person of authority," an exasperated Duterte said in his public address Wednesday night.
"If another super spreader event happens after tonight (Wednesday night) arrest the barangay captain for dereliction of duty and failure to implement the law under the Revised Penal Code. The first one in the police lineup should be the barangay captain," the commander-in-chief added.
Duterte issued the directive after Interior Secretary Eduardo Año reported that there were three consecutive super spreader events in Caloocan City, Quezon City and Bulacan.
Some 20 guests of the Gubat sa Ciudad Resort in Caloocan City tested positive for COVID-19. The local government is tracking down some 2,000 individuals as the contact tracing log of the resort was not properly filled out.
At the Barangay Nagkaisang Nayon in Quezon City, at least 54 individuals contracted COVID-19.
In Norzagaray, Bulacan, at least 2,000 people went to the Bakas River.
Duterte urged the police to "use reasonable force" against barangay captains who may resist arrest.
He also warned policemen who will hesitate to effect the arrest that they themselves will be liable for dereliction of duty.
"They flout the law by doing that (super spreader events). If there is a party, you (barangay captains should) arrest them. If you cannot do it, call the police to assist you and enforce the law accordingly," the President said.
"I hate to do this but you are forcing my hand. Remember, I am not asking for any help from you. It is your duty, if there is a violation of the law or something is detrimental to society, do something or I will have you arrested," he added.
Earlier in the day, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said it will strengthen the authority of village officials to enforce health protocols and prevent mass gatherings that can turn into COVID-19 super spreader events.
“We see that the weakest link is how our barangay officials handle super spreader events,” Año said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
He said the DILG would order mandatory patrols of barangay security personnel, especially during weekends and holidays.
Año also cited the need for village watchmen to visit resorts and recreation facilities in their areas as people are tempted to look for relief especially during the hot summer months.
He said barangays should post hotline numbers in strategic areas so citizens can report mass gathering violators.
Año also pointed out that barangay operations centers should have a direct link to Philippine National Police stations in running after health protocol violators.
Meanwhile, PNP Chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar directed local police units to intensify their operations against the holding of “tupada” or illegal cockfighting in their areas.
He issued the order after the arrest of 17 persons, including a barangay captain, in Calamba, Laguna in an anti-illegal cockfighting operation and for violating minimum public health safety protocols.
Eleazar expressed dismay that among the arrested violators was Romeo Rivera, the chief of Barangay 171 in Caloocan who now faces an administrative charge over the incident at the Gubat sa Ciudad resort.
Meanwhile, Quezon City Councilor Franz Pumaren of District 3 must answer for the alleged violation of health protocols during his food distribution activity in Barangay Old Balara.
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte issued a show-cause order to Pumaren, majority floor leader, to give him a chance to explain his supposed violation of the health protocols.
As part of her commitment to strictly enforce health protocols, Belmonte reiterated her warning to all Quezon City residents, including officials, that they would be prosecuted if they violate health regulations and endanger the safety of others.
“The City Legal Department is already conducting the necessary investigation over these reports and will file an appropriate case or cases as warranted,” she said.
She tasked the City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit to conduct COVID-19 tests among participants of the activity.
In Maguindanao, at least 61 households from a residential area in Datu Odin Sinsuat were under temporary lockdown after many residents tested positive for COVID-19.
Mayor Cheryl Mary Rose Ann Sinsuat said Wednesday she ordered restricted access to the 4th Road of the SPDA Subdivision in Barangay Semba due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The lockdown, which took effect Tuesday, will end on June 8.
In General Santos City, the city jail has temporarily stopped accepting detainees from local police stations after 52 more inmates tested positive for COVID-19.
The additional cases were among the record-high 83 new infections reported in the city on Tuesday night, which brought the active cases to 594, the highest since last year and so far in the entire Region 12 (Soccksargen).
Jail Superintendent Metz Milton Placencia, city jail warden, said Wednesday the patients appeared to have contracted the disease after exposure to the initial three inmates who were earlier confirmed positive of the disease.