Philippine police criticised for plan to monitor social media for lockdown violations

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A plan by the Philippine National Police to monitor social media activities of residents for potential quarantine violations drew criticism from netizens and activists, accusing police officials of authoritarianism and double standards.

On Saturday (Sept. 05), Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, chief of the PNP Joint Task Force COVID Shield, said the police would “regularly monitor” various social media platforms to locate people defying safety regulations.

Eleazar said he had instructed all police commanders and their men to conduct what would amount to an online patrol to find violators of quarantine rules.

“Police could use public postings on social media as leads, and these will be over and above the police visibility operations we are conducting and will complement tips we get from police hotline,” Eleazar told Reuters by phone.

Eleazar warned of fines and penalties of community service for people violating precautionary measures, while violators of liquor bans will face “additional charges”.

Meanwhile, Renato Reyes, Secretary General of left-wing activist group Bayan (Nation) said on Twitter that the plan to monitor social media seems to show the police agency “wants to use the pandemic to turn us into a police state, where every action is being watched by the authorities”.

Critics said the plan shows a double standard after a police chief was allowed to keep his post despite flouting a ban on social gatherings in May.

Photographs on the police force’s Facebook page showed Debold Sinas, chief of the National Capital Region police, celebrating his birthday along with dozens of people without masks sitting close together, with beer cans on their tables despite an alcohol ban.

Sinashas since apologised.

Eleazar said criminal and administrative cases have been filed against Sinas for the incident.

The Philippines has recorded 234,570 coronavirus cases, the highest in Southeast Asia, with 3,790 COVID-19 deaths. (Source: CNA)

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