PNP’s advice to cops who won’t follow mask mandate: Just resign
MANILA, Philippines — Police officers and officials who will refuse to heed the national government’s COVID-19 protocols on face mask use should just resign, Philippine National Police officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. said on Monday.
During a briefing after the flag ceremony at Camp Crame, Danao reminded policemen that they are part of a government agency serving on a national scale, thus should only follow the directive of either the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, or the Commander-in-chief, the President.
Danao made the pronouncements amid the recent standoff between the DILG and the Cebu provincial government on the use of face masks outdoors.
Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia earlier signed an executive order last June 8 making the wearing of face masks outdoors optional, and required only on poorly-ventilated spaces.
“Well, nasa kanya ‘yan ‘no, pamalakad niya ‘yan eh,” Danao said of Garcia’s executive order. “Pero ang sinasabi ko nga, ‘yong pulis na under ng national government, sumunod kayo sa pinag-uutos ng heirarchy. Ngayon kung ayaw niyo sumunod, eh ‘di magresign kayo kasi ayaw niyo sumunod, ‘di ba? Gano’n lang kasimple.”
“But insofar as the [PNP] is concerned, mapa-Cebu PPO ka man or kahit saan mang probinsya ‘yan, dapat we should follow the instruction or the mandate especially so coming from our Commander-in-Chief,” he added.
Danao’s statements came after he was asked about the varying views of the Cebu Police Provincial Office (PPO) and the Police Regional Office – 7 (PRO-7) on the protocol, as Cebu PPO director Col. Engelbert Soriano said that he would be guided by Garcia’s executive order No. 16.
But PRO-7 director Brig. Gen. Roque Eduardo Vega — Soriano’s superior — still urged the public to continue wearing masks even outdoors.
Danao said he has already talked to Vega about the order, adding that the regional director has been firm in implementing the protocols of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) — the national government body that still requires wearing of face masks.
“I have talked already with the RD and he is firm in implementing, eh what is — ano ba naman ‘yong magsuot ka lang ng face mask. Okay, sabi ko nga nire-respeto po natin ‘yong autonomy, ‘yon pong iginawad na pamamalakad ng ating Governor,” Danao said.
“However, sa mga pulis, we are under national government, you follow the instruction from the national headquarters. Now, if you think you cannot follow, you resign. Gano’n lang kasimple. Okay, resign,” he repeated.
The acting PNP chief also took a pot shot at a certain ‘iho’ — a police official whom he did not explicitly name — for trying to play politics.
“Now ‘yong mga matitigas naman ang ulo dahil sumisipsip ka d’yan, eh napakabata mo pa iho para mamulitika, sa totoo lang. ‘Wag ka mamulitiko d’yan, you do your job there,” he said.
Despite a relatively lower number of cases after the COVID-19 surge last January, health authorities have advised against allowing people to go outdoors without masks, especially with the threat of the highly transmissible Omicron subvariants.
President Rodrigo Duterte has been adamant at keeping face mask rules until his term ends, stressing that the risk of COVID-19 is not yet over. He also said in past briefings that the continuous masking protocol may be one of the reasons why the Philippines has been faring better than other countries that experienced a spike in infections after going mask-less.
Danao made the same warning after the flag-raising ceremony in Camp Crame, saying police officers should listen to the directive of the DILG Secretary and the national government in terms of implementing COVID-19 regulations.
“Just an advice to all members of the [PNP], and this is not only addressed to the Cebu province and the Cebu PRO-7, but to all members of the [PNP]. Remember, we are members of the national government,” Danao said in a press briefing.
“So whatever the mandate, o kung ano man ang ipinag-uutos po lalo na ng ating SILG, eh sundin natin. Meron tayong national IATF, so ano man lang ‘yong maggamit ka ng face mask, ‘di ba, habang naglalakad-lakad ka d’yan?” he asked.
Face mask wearing a national directive
Danao further said that while, they respect the mandate of Garcia, there is also an ongoing national directive sustaining the wearing of face masks.
However, the order has left local police confused as whether they should impose Garcia’s regulations or stick with the protocols placed by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) — a body composed of national government agencies.
As to whether people would be arrested for not wearing masks, Danao said that he has always reminded police personnel to be tolerant of violators — and if possible, provide them masks if they cannot afford to buy it.
However, the problem would be with those who fail to heed the order even with the reminder from the police — especially if the violator is found to be positive for COVID-19.
“Ang lagi naman po naming sinasabi since Day 1 is let us maximize tolerance, give them maximum tolerance, kung kaya nga natin na tayo na mismo ang magpo-provide ng face mask eh ‘di bakit hindi. Pero ‘yong may matitigas talaga ang ulo, lalo na if found positive sa COVID, eh ‘yan ang medyo ano talaga siguro,” he explained.
Danao also reminded the public that those who refuse to wear face masks run the risk of getting infected from COVID-19 — especially as most of Cebu province are under Alert Level 2. For police officers and officials, the acting PNP chief stressed that it was the President’s order to continue wearing face masks.
“‘Pag ‘yong tao eh ayaw gumamit ng face mask, it is a risk to take. So nasa inyo ‘yan kung gusto ninyong hindi na gumamit ng face mask, pero you have a risk to take […] But insofar as the [PNP] is concerned, mapa-Cebu PPO ka man or kahit saan mang probinsya ‘yan, dapat we should follow the instruction or the mandate especially so coming from our Commander-in-Chief,” he said.
“Siya mismo po kasi ang nagsabi niyan, that we should always maintain pa rin ‘yong face masks,” he added.
Duterte in the past has been adamant at keeping face mask rules until his term ends, stressing that the risk of COVID-19 is not yet over with experts seeing mutations in the already infectious Omicron variant.
Last April 12, Duterte said that the continuous masking protocol may be a reason why the Philippines has been faring better than other countries, who saw a surge in cases because people were allowed to take their masks off already.
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