Duterte says he might tap military if public won’t comply with quarantine rules
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has again raised the possibility of using the military to enforce community quarantine if people would continue to disregard health protocols and restrictions placed to avoid widespread coronavirus transmissions.
According to Duterte, the military is not yet part of quarantine operations, but it could be a possibility if the COVID-19 cases would continue to rise, especially as police officers could not be posted at every corner of a city or municipality.
Earlier, the Department of Health (DOH) reported another highest single-day increase in COVID-19 infections, at 6,958 newly-reported cases.
Most of the newly-reported patients — 4,163 of them — are in Metro Manila (4,163) and other provinces under a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
“We have also seen a continuous rise in COVID cases, especially in the NCR [National Capital Region]. Now this is what you get… As I told you, I cannot stop all of you. The police cannot be everywhere and anywhere all the time,” Duterte, speaking partly in Filipino, said in his Monday night briefing.
“The military is not part of the governance yet in the matter of using force or at least intimidating you with soldiers. Far from it, we do not have that plan. But if you won’t learn your lesson — it’s a runaway contagion — I will be forced to use the military because we really lack police officers,” he said.
But if it would be the factor that would force the public to strictly follow quarantine rules, then Duterte said he would be willing to do it.
“Now if the military is there to enforce [the rules] for you to obey this community lockdown, follow it because it is for your own benefit,” he said.
Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite and Laguna were all placed under MECQ last Aug. 4 due to rising COVID-19 cases in the country.
On Monday, the DOH COVID-19 tracker site showed that there were 136,638 cases nationwide.
In Metro Manila alone, there were 75,399 confirmed COVID-19 cases, of which 38,894 are considered active cases. Almost half of the death toll, at 1,099, were recorded in Metro Manila.
The COVID-19 bulletin also showed staggering hospitalization numbers for NCR: Of all ICU beds allocated for COVID-19 patients, only 24 percent of 547 beds — or around 131 — are available. Only 26 percent — or 962 — of 3,700 isolation beds are open; while only 256 of 1,600 ward beds or 16 percent are open.
This is not the first time that Duterte considered involving the military in COVID-19 related programs.
Previously, Duterte said that he would task the military with distributing a coronavirus vaccine to avoid possible corruption issues — just like what happened the government’s Social Amelioration Program.
But Duterte’s decision to pick military men or people with military or police backgrounds to lead the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) did not sit well with government critics, saying that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic should be health-based, and not one involving the military.
Currently, IATF officials with military backgrounds include Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Peace Process Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.
Duterte previously said that he picked former military officers for their discipline.
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