BATANGAS, Philippines – Duty before self.
Calabarzon police carried out the most crucial tasks to ensure residents were safe from the wrath of Taal Volcano – from evacuating people, manning checkpoints, and conducting patrols in areas under lockdown to make sure houses and establishments were not looted.
More than 1,000 police outside Calabarzon were deployed to Batangas and Cavite to aid the region. The military sent troops to help in disaster response too.
At least 11 towns in Batangas were placed on total lockdown, while 3 others were on partial lockdown. The police had to face angry residents who tried to get past them at checkpoints.
After state volcanologists recommended the forced evacuation of stubborn residents who stayed within the 14-kilometer danger zone, police had to evacuate them all within 48 hours starting January 21.
"Everybody is a victim dito sa volcanic eruption na 'to eh. Pero 'yun nga lang pinagkaiba ng pulis natin is they signed up para maglingkod," Talisay police chief PCPT Aldrin Jay Baysa told Rappler.
(Everybody is a victim in this volcanic eruption. But the only difference is that our policemen signed up to serve the public.)
Now that the alert level over Taal has been lowered from 4 to 3, Baysa said that they are on a shifting mode, allowing police whose properties were either filled with ash or damaged to come back home and check on their families.
Philippine National Police chief Archie Gamboa commended the work of Calabarzon police during the eruption of Taal Volcano.
"The PNP stood shoulder to shoulder with our distressed countrymen during those trying times, and we will remain by their side on their road to complete recovery from this setback," Gamboa said in a statement read by PNP spokesman Brigadier General Bernard Banac on Monday, January 27.
"Because several of our own police personnel were themselves victims of this tragedy, the PNP morale and welfare policy ensures that appropriate assistance is also extended to them," Gamboa said.
Baysa told Rappler initial assistance such as rice and other basic necessities had already been given by the national police headquarters.
"Pina-fifill up kami ng forms dun sa mga affected na PNP personnel. So I hope siguro magpapadala sila ng tulong. Sa ngayon, nagbigay sila ng every personel ng mga relief like mga bigas na basic needs, necessities ng mga tao. Tas 'yun nga siguro magpapadala rin sila ng monetary na tulong," Baysa said.
(PNP personal who were affected by the eruption were asked to fill up forms. So I hope they send us aid. Right now, they gave every personnel relief packs like rice and other basic needs, necessities. Maybe they'll also send us monetary help.)
Taal Volcano started erupting on January 12, with the alert level rapidly escalating from 2 to 4 within hours. It was on Alert Level 4 for more than two weeks, before the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology lowered it to 3.