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Bato: Police, military better equipped, quickly deployable for COVID-19 response

Senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa on Tuesday supported President Rodrigo Duterte's plan to deploy military personnel for enforcement of quarantine protocols, and to tap the police force for contact tracing after the Philippines had a record-high 6,958 new cases of COVID-19 in a day.

"All other governments in the world are relying on their police and military in enforcing quarantine protocols because they are well organized, better equipped, and quickly deployable," Dela Rosa said in a message sent to GMA News Online.

A former chief of the Philippine National Police, Dela Rosa said unity, not divisiveness, is needed in the country's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

He advised critics who see Duterte's approach as too "militarized" to pitch their alternative suggestions.

"If they have better ideas then please present it to the government," he said.

On Sunday night, President Rodrigo Duterte said he plans to deploy the military to augment the cops in enforcing quarantine restrictions.

"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," Duterte said.

"But upang hindi talaga madala and it’s a runaway contagion, mapipilitan ako maggamit ng military kasi talagang kulang ang pulis. Ngayon, kung nandiyan ang military to enforce you to obey itong community lockdown, sumunod kayo dahil para sa inyo ‘yan," he added.

Last week, PNP chief Police General Archie Francisco Gamboa said the police force in Metro Manila is enough to enforce the modified enhanced community quarantine. The region recorded 60% of the new cases on Monday.  

Duterte likewise tapped the police to transport contact tracers to the homes of potential COVID-19 cases.

“Magpahatid ng kung anong sasakyan diyan sa pulis, doon sila sumakay, ihatid sila ng pulis doon sa boundary. Beyond that, ibang pulis na naman ang magsasalo sa kanila para hanapin ‘yung tao,” he said.

“The police have the resources, pati ‘yung barangay captain, na malaman nila kung saan ito (COVID-19 patient) nakatira. That would be the fastest way of doing the tracing kasi kung may pera at may sasakyan the better… Pero kung wala, the police has to sacrifice and contribute,” he added.

In April, the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations raised concerns over the Philippine government's  “highly militarized response” to violators of the enhanced community quarantine.

As of August 10, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines is 136,638, of which 66,186 remain active, 68,159 have recovered, and 2,293 died. —KG, GMA News