By Daniel Llanto

The Philippine National Police (PNP) assured that the war on drugs and criminality won’t take a back seat to the community quarantine being enforced in Metro Manila to contain the spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

“Those will continue,” PNP Director for police community relations and acting PNP spokesman Maj. Gen. Benigno Durana said, referring to anti-drugs and anti-criminality campaigns of the police force.

To ensure that the fight to control COVID-19 does not distract lawmen from the war on drugs and criminality, President Duterte in a rare gesture called for a ceasefire with armed communist rebels of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).   Somehow as a sign of good will, the Supreme Court also allowed the former top leader of the CPP, Rodolfo Salas, to post bail after he was arrested in February for murder charges.

In the ceasefire call, Duterte asked the NPA rebels to do their share by temporarily refraining from attacking government forces.

“‘Wag ninyo munang galawin ang mga sundalo at pulis. Ano muna tayo, ceasefire lang. Ceasefire muna tayo. Ako na ang nanghihingi,” Duterte said.

“Kindly give me that… if you really want that we will be at all times on talking terms, in this time of crisis,” he added.

Duterte appealed to the NPA, “Kindly cooperate and help… I will repay you with a good heart in the coming days.”

On the release of Salas, the Supreme Court allowed it after the former chairman of the CPP and its armed wing NPA posted a PHP200,000 bond.

Salas’ son, Jody, earlier filed a habeas corpus petition before the Supreme Court for the freedom of the 72-year-old former communist leader. The younger Salas contended in his petition that his father’s arrest is illegal as it violated his rights to due process and against double jeopardy.

PNP spokesman Durana said the implementation of the community quarantine is not solely the job of the PNP, noting that the Armed Forces, the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fire Protection are also involved in the endeavor.

“On the regular functions that we’ve been doing, such as anti-criminality, crime-prevention, crime solution, community policing, our policemen will continue to do them,” said Durana.

National Capital Region Police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas said the policemen deployed for the community quarantine are from the NCRPO’s regional mobile force.

“The very reason there is so that city police stations would be able to conduct their anti-criminality campaign. Those (anti-criminality campaign) will continue, nothing will be stopped, our anti-drug campaign will continue,” said Sinas.

Thus, 56 men wanted for various felonies in Cavite were arrested by local police in a series of anti-criminality operations the other day, a report to Police Regional Office 4-A Director Brigadier Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. noted.

Cavite Police Provincial Office Director, Col. Marlon Santos said 24 of the suspects were arrested as a result of 10 separate anti-narcotics operations which led in the confiscation of nearly PHP40,000 worth of shabuand marijuana. These operations were carried while lawmen were manning the COVID-19 checkpoints at the border of Cavite province and Metro Manila.

The suspects were arrested in buy-bust operations conducted in Trece Martirez, Cavite, and General Trias cities and the municipalities of Magallanes, Carmona, Silang, Indang, Tanza, Kawit and General Mariano Alvarez, the official said.

All arrested suspects are now facing non-bailable charges for sale and possession of dangerous drugs under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, Santos said.

The rest of the suspects were arrested on the strength of warrants of arrests for murder, rape, estafa, frustrated homicide and direct assault.

One of the suspects wanted for rape is the number one most wanted man in Amadeo town while three others who were facing separate murder and RA 9165 cases in Cavite City were identified as the top three most wanted persons in the city.