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Masked criminals are target

ELEAZAR (FB photo)

ELEAZAR (FB photo)

By AARON RECUENCO

The Philippine National Police is mapping out preemptive actions against criminals who may take advantage of the “face mask” rule to hide their identities while engaging in illicit activities.

“This challenge is actually included on the security measures that we are studying. We have taken into consideration this matter and even our chief PNP (Gen. Archie Gamboa) is aware of it and wants it addressed,” said Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP deputy chief for operations.

He said the PNP is now crafting peace and order measures for the “new normal” situation which includes mandatory wearing of face masks of people whenever they go out of their homes.

Since the enhanced community quarantine was implemented, the PNP noted a 61 percent reduction in crime volume across the country. The biggest decline was reported in Luzon with 68 percent decrease.

Eleazar said the eight focus crimes have also significantly went down, revealing that the average focus crime during the 54-day ECQ implementation was at 58 compared to a daily average of 150 on the same period before the ECQ implementation.

The eight focused crimes are murder, homicide, physical injury, robbery, theft, carjacking, carnapping of motorcycle, and rape.

The PNP considers the eight focus crimes as accurate indicators of the crime situation in the country.

“The challenge now is how to sustain this decline,” said Eleazar.

Top government officials are not inclined to recommend the extension of the ECQ when it expires on May 15. But Metro Manila mayors are reportedly opting to extend the ECQ in the metropolis for 15 more days.

Aside from Metro Manila, Central Luzon (except Aurora) and Region 4-A (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon area), Pangasinan, Albay, Cebu, Iloilo, and Davao City are still under ECQ.

Eleazar, who also heads the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, said they are now preparing for the new normal law enforcement if the ECQ is lifted in most of the areas mentioned.

He said that if the ECQ implementation is lifted, the security adjustment could be on police visibility as he noted that more people would be allowed to go out under the general community quarantine.

“Under GCQ, more establishments will be allowed to operate because our economy will be partially opened. This means that more people would be allowed to go out so our police visibility would be in these areas in order to strictly implement the basic rules such as wearing of face masks and physical distancing,” said Eleazar.

While the quarantine control points and dedicated control points will remain under GCQ, Eleazar said they would likely ease the strict measures since doing so would cause monstrous traffic jams.

Instead, he said, mobile checkpoints and random checking of private vehicles by personnel of the Highway Patrol Group that is also expected to deploy motorcycle-riding patrolmen would be intensified.

Aside from the implementation of the measures against the spread of the coronavirus, Eleazar said policemen and soldiers who would be tapped for visibility will also be on the lookout for criminal elements.

He explained that with more people engaging again in economic activities, this may embolden criminal elements again to prey on their victims.

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