Tue, 18 May 2021

CHEERS TO the media for keeping in the public eye the aggressive implementation of the recent enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) with reference to human rights and past quarantine abuses.

Because of a record-breaking surge in Covid-19 cases, the government placed Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan under ECQ from March 29 to April 4, and later extended it until April 11.

As in the ECQ last year, the government positioned gun-bearing police officers at the forefront of its response. The media quickly recalled how the same strategy last year led to inhumane actions to penalize violators, including crowding them in a dog cage and making them stand in the heat of the sun for hours. Police at a checkpoint in the capital also shot dead a man who turned out to be a former soldier who had fought in Marawi and was already suffering from trauma. The cops said the man reached into his bag and they thought he was pulling out a gun, but he had no such weapon in his possession.

Philstar.com noted the same "power-tripping" by quarantine enforcers in its March 30 report and presented examples of belligerent policing. The report cited a source, who, having experienced aggressive police treatment at a checkpoint, said that if this display of power was the only way officers could ensure compliance, they have succeeded only in "instilling a culture of fear."

The recent ECQ recorded two deaths:

  • Darren Penaredondo was arrested on April 1 by barangay watchmen in General Trias, Cavite. He left his residence during curfew hours to buy drinking water. He was surrendered to the police, who forced to do 300 squats. Because he had a pre-existing heart problem, he had a stroke and died two days after.
  • Ernanie Jimenez was allegedly beaten by barangay watchmen in Calamba, Laguna after violating the curfew on April 4. Jimenez was comatose for two days before he died on April 6.

The media reported both incidents with comments from the Commission on Human Rights pointing out that excessive punishment is an overreach of quarantine rules and is tantamount to torture.

Inquirer's April 14 editorial bannered both cases among the "horror stories" of ECQ enforcement. It emphasized that the quarantine only highlighted the "twisted and criminal behavior exacerbating the public health crisis."

CMFR believes that the president's directive to "kill, kill, kill," as his mandated response to several crises resonates even among barangay tanod (watchmen), who are at the lowest rungs of government officialdom.

The Inquirer editorial was spot-on, as it pointed out how "this government has bred third-rate, trying hard copycats who ape their overlords in a brute display of power."

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