President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed police officers to ‘arrest’ and ‘detain’ individuals who fail to follow proper mask protocol. 

Duterte aired his new orders during a pre-recorded address on Wednesday (May 5) night. 

“My orders to the police are, those who are not working their masks properly, in order to protect the public . . . arrest them and detain them, investigate them why they are doing it,” the president said. 

According to Duterte, the police will have nine hours to detain the people in question – as part of the investigation and questioning. 

Duterte hopes that the imposition of heavier consequences for violators will serve as a wake-up call for those who continue to break mask-wearing protocols. 

“Pag hindi ko ganunin, hindi ko higpitan, walang mangyayari,” the country’s top-most executive said. 

“Ako dito hirap na hirap, pawala na iyong pera natin sa bangko tapos sige pa rin kayo, galaw nang galaw d’yan nang hindi tama, mapupunta talaga kayo sa istasyon,” he added. 

Contrary to Duterte’s current stance, the administration’s Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra urged police personnel not to arrest violators of the mask-wearing protocol during a virtual press briefing a month ago. 

Instead of detainment and apprehension, Guevarra suggested imposing community service penalties for those who break the rules. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) strongly recommends the wearing of masks amid the COVID-19 health crisis, especially when around people and in enclosed areas. It’s been found to be an effective strategy in controlling the spread of infection. 

At present, the Philippines is slowly recovering from a recent surge in COVID-19 cases – which started early in March of this year. The increase in infections prompted areas in the NCR Plus zone – Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna – to go under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), but the quarantine classification has since been lowered to a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ). 

In the Department of Health’s (DOH) latest COVID-19 tally, 5,685 new cases have been identified – almost a 50 percent decrease from 10,000 daily cases recorded mid-April. The current figure now brings the total number of active infections in the country to 62,713. 

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Image credit: Noel Celis / AFP via Getty Images