The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has confirmed that a leaked internal memo of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), directing the military’s expanded role in enforcing a lockdown amid the coronavirus epidemic, is legitimate.
The one-page document circulated on social media on Friday, April 17th, the same day it was issued.
The memo, ordered by Air Force Commanding General Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes and addressed to unit commanders, directed them to “prepare for strict implementation” of what it described as an “extensive enhanced community quarantine.”
The order further added that the “AFP will be the over-all in-charge along roads and highways.”
Military spokespersons defended the order on Sunday. PAF spokesman Major Aris Galang said the memo was merely a preparatory move of the organization.
“The PAF is just anticipating any scenarios in case the President as Commander in Chief of the AFP would decide to implement his statements lately,” Galang said in a message to defense reporters.
“Per my conversation with (General Paredes), that document is an internal memo issued for the purpose of providing advance information to give guidance to personnel, in this case, the PAF,” AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened a “martial law-like” crackdown after noting increased public defiance of the Luzon-wide lockdown.
“Kasi ‘pag ayaw ninyo, ayaw ninyong maniwala, mag-take over ang military pati pulis,” the President said in a televised speech late Thursday.
Galang said the memo simply reflected the President’s pronouncements and that “we are just preparing our personnel to be ready.”
The Air Force is now investigating how the memo was leaked to the public, saying it contains classified information related to national security that should have been kept confidential.
Arevalo assured the public that “there is nothing to be alarmed” over the memo, explaining it as just the AFP’s “natural reaction” in preparation for possible orders regarding the enhanced community quarantine from the President.
“What we should all be alarmed about instead is the fact that a lot of people are blatantly violating the law and disobeying the rules and health protocols which must be strictly enforced, otherwise, people die,” Arevalo pointed out in a statement.