MANILA – Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año on Wednesday urged village officials, community leaders, organizers, and business establishments, among others, to help enforce minimum public health standards (MPHS) to prevent coronavirus disease 19 (Covid-19) cases amid loosened restrictions and campaign-related mass gatherings.

Año stressed that the biggest challenge is on the May 9, 2022 national and local elections where at least 60 million voters are expected to go outdoors and cast their votes in the country’s polling precincts.

Even before the actual election day, Año said the Philippine National Police (PNP), local government units (LGUs) and state authorities have their hands full in maintaining crowd control as the relaxed Alert Level system coupled with the election campaign period have resulted to six digit number crowds attending all sorts of poll activities.

Muli pong mag-i-istrikto ang ating kapulisan sa pagpapatupad ng minimum public health standards at tinatawagan din natin ang mga LGUs lalo na po ang mga barangay officials at barangay tanod, ang mga management ng commercial establishments, ang mga community leaders, ang mga campaign organizers na tumulong sa pagpapatupad ng minimum public health standards (Our police will again strictly enforce the minimum public health standards, and we also call on the LGUs especially the barangay officials and barangay tanods, the management of commercial establishments, community leaders, and campaign organizers. to assist in the implementation of minimum public health standards),” Año said during prerecorded public address with Cabinet officials aired Wednesday morning

The DILG stressed the urgency of strictly implementing the health protocols to prevent the spread of the virus as health authorities projected another Covid19 spike in the coming weeks or months. 

Although there were no granular lockdowns in the country, Año pointed out that some 20,266 were warned for not wearing face masks, 6,263 people were fined or cited, 1,834 did community service while cases were filed against 259 individuals for a total of 84,969 violators of the offense.

From the previous 13 incidents, Año lamented that the number of mass gathering offenses reached 724 while the physical distancing infraction skyrocketed to 9,057 from the previous number of 3,002.

From April 15 to 24, Año said there was a 196 percent rise in the number of persons violating the face mask rule, 5,469 percent increase in the conduct of mass gathering, and 201 percent surge in the number of physical distancing violators.

On the update for election security preparation, Año said some 41,965 PNP personnel were deployed in 5,431 established checkpoints by the Commission on Election (Comelec) as of April 24 to ensure public order and safety especially with the nearing May polls.

With the strict monitoring of the PNP on lawlessness, he said that from Jan. 9 to April 25, some 2,820 persons were nabbed in the reported 2,692 gun ban violations.

In the same period, various law enforcement authorities seized 1,033 deadly weapons, 2,147 firearms and 11,437 ammunition.

Sisiguraduhin po natin na magkakaroon tayo ng isang mapayapa, maayos, at ligtas ang ating mamamayan sa darating na eleksyon sa Mayo 9, 2022 (We ensure the public of a peaceful, orderly and safe election),’’ Año said.

The election gun ban period was established during the election period from January 9 to June 8.

The DILG chief also noted that 1,423 individuals were arrested in 1,030 illegal drug operations conducted while 109 others surrendered from April 17 to 25 as the government continues its all-out war against illegal drugs.

During the said period, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), PNP and other anti-narcotics authorities confiscated 39.81 kilograms of shabu and 141.88 kilograms of marijuana worth PHP287,767,237.82. (PNA)