Philippine police draw criticism for plan to monitor social media during quarantine

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Philippine police drew criticism from the internet and social activists concerning a plan to monitor social media as an attempt to enforce quarantine regulations. Critics accuse the Philippine authorities of authoritarianism and double standards. 

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,” Renato Reyes, secretary-general of left-wing activist group Bayan (Nation) said on Twitter.

National Police Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar, head of a task force enforcing quarantine protocols, warned of fines and penalties of community service for people violating precautionary measures. These measures/regulations include bans on liquor, mandatory public mask-wearing, and observing one-meter social distancing. Children, elderly and pregnant women are also urged to remain at home. 

Critics claim the plan shows a double standard after a Philippine 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 also 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. 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.