MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Presidential Security Group (PSG) will go on lockdown for 14 days starting Saturday, March 28, to protect its personnel – and the President – from the novel coronavirus.
“I require all PSG personnel to go on self-quarantine effective March 28. No PSG personnel to go out of Malacañang Complex until April 10,” PSG commander Colonel Jesus Durante III said in a message to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, and which Panelo sent to reporters on Friday, March 27.
The Malacañang Complex itself, where the President normally resides and holds office, will not go on lockdown, Durante clarified.
The PSG said in a statement posted on its official Facebook page: "All offices situated in Malacañang Complex, most especially in Malacañan Palace, shall continue to maintain their skeletal workforce. Essential civilian employees shall still be allowed to enter the Palace area subject to regular screening procedures."
Asked who would provide security to the President while PSG personnel were on self-quarantine, Durante told Rappler in a text message: "There would still be regular close-in detail. All of them have been tested negative for COVID-19."
The PSG also said that the lockdown applies to all PSG personnel and their dependents staying at the PSG compound and the Malacañang complex.
"The Presidential Security Group has the sole and unique mandate of protecting the President of the Republic. By ensuring the good health condition of the PSG troopers means deploying competent and able personnel who are not themselves threat to the health of the President," the PSG said.
Durante did not give any other reason for the PSG lockdown but he issued the lockdown order a day after he criticized ACT-CIS Representative Eric Yap for still attending a meeting in Malacañang on March 21 while the lawmaker waited for his coronavirus test results. Yap got the positive result on March 25.
Durante had said that Yap “endangered” officials and staff in Malacañang.
However, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, citing clerical error, said on Friday that Yap “remains negative.” The fact remains, however, that he broke quarantine protocols while he was a person under investigation, and exposed several high-level government officials in the process.
Philippine military chief Felimon Santos Jr, who tested positive for the coronavirus disease on Friday, was supposed to have gone to Malacañang's Heroes Hall on March 23, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
The PSG is the close-in security detail of the President, the Vice President, their families, former presidents and vice presidents, as well as visiting heads of state. – with a report from Sofia Tomacruz/Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.