No social media monitoring, barging in homes for Christmas — PNP chief

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) – December 17, 2020 – 1:21pm

MANILA, Philippines — Police personnel have been instructed to taper down on social media monitoring, arresting quarantine violators and home arrests for the Christmas season, the chief of the national police disclosed Thursday. 

Speaking in an interview aired over CNN Philippines’ “The Source,” Police Gen. Debold Sinas, chief of the Philippine National Police, clarified the police force’s marching orders for the holiday, saying that only organizers of gatherings would be arrested, while families in their homes will be left alone.  

The directive signals a drastic departure from the national police’s heavy-handed enforcement of protocols for much of the past nine months of community quarantine. The Joint Task Force COVID Shield, which includes the national police and military and handles on-ground enforcement of quarantine rules, earlier announced it would also be monitoring social media for violations until it was slammed by no less than the National Privacy Commission. 

“We don’t have the capability to monitor social media right now. What we’re doing now is when someone texts us that a case went viral, that’s what we’re looking for and will take action against…We don’t immediately go when someone complains. We verify first. But if you guys are only celebrating the Christmas and New Year solemnly, we won’t barge in, we won’t trespass. The police know everybody’s rights,” Sinas said in mixed Filipino and English. 

Asked about the approach towards potential mass gatherings, Sinas added: “Our guidance is to disperse them. We’ll only invite the leaders and organizers to the station to explain. If there are 100 people, we would only be further violating the social distancing protocol.”

Police leadership held the same narrative ahead of Independence Day and President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address, during which peaceful protests and mass actions were anticipated.

“We’ll just invite them to our police stations and not really arrest. At the same time, we have to enforce local ordinances,” then-PNP spokesperson Bernard Banac said in an interview, adding that police personnel would practice “maximum tolerance” in dispersing any mass gatherings. 

READ: ‘Walang usap-usap’: Protesters outside UP will be arrested, NCRPO chief says

However, both days yielded a number of warrantless arrests of protesters and activists.

“If anyone brings out a placard, they’ll be arrested right away,” Sinas said then, when he was still chief of Metro Manila police. 

In the same interview, Sinas said he also directed cops not to arrest Filipinos found not wearing face masks or face shields in public during the Christmas season, and instead instructed enforcers to hand out extra gear to citizens if available.



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