As the Philippine police quickly shifts back to an arrest policy, as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte, their new chief has a public instruction: Do not hurt the people you arrest for quarantine violations.
“Puwede natin silang arestuhin, pero hindi natin sila dapat parusahan at lalong hindi natin sila dapat saktan. Kapag ginawa ninyo ito, mananagot kayo sa akin,” said General Guillermo Eleazar, the newly-appointed head of the Philippine National Police (PNP), replacing the controversial Debold Sinas.
(We can arrest them, but we shouldn’t impose punishment, and more importantly, we shouldn’t hurt them. If you do this, I will punish you.)
This comes in the context of two incidents last April where two people died because of physical punishments for violating quarantine. In General Trias, Cavite, 28-year-old Darren Peñaredondo died after policemen forced him to do 300 rounds of a pumping exercise for breaking curfew to buy water for his family.
In Calamba City, Laguna, 26-year-old Ernanie “Nanie” Lumban Jimenez died after he was reportedly beaten to death by two barangay tanods in Calamba also for breaking curfew.
Eleazar reminded cops to abide only by the local ordinance, as the Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier stated arrests will be based on the local ordinances with penal sanctions covering the basic health protocols.
“The penalties for violation of the minimum health safety protocols are already embodied in the local ordinances such as imposition of fine and community service, and these should be used to discipline the violators,” said Eleazar.
Upon the recommendation of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra in April, the PNP stepped on the brakes on the arrest policy and said they would instead subject quarantine violators to community service.
But all that changed with just one word from Duterte, announcing in a speech that he’s ordering policemen to arrest those who improperly use their face mask.
Human rights lawyers have long been pointing out that an arrest policy for quarantine violators will be subject to abuse, and will clog court dockets, leading to overcrowding jails – all of which happened in 2020, before Guevarra shifted tone last April.
Guevarra said the DOJ and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will draft guidelines to avoid overcrowding of jails.
Eleazar also appealed to the public to follow all protocols.
“Para naman sa ating mga kababayan, mahigit isang taon na po tayong nilalabanan ang pandemya. Hindi na dapat kayo sinasabihan kung ano ang dapat gawin para protesksiyunan ninyo ang inyong sarili at pamilya, at lalong hindi na dapat tayo nag-a-arestuhan pa,” said Eleazar.
(To our fellow Filipinos, we have been fighting this pandemic for a year now. We should no longer be telling you what you need to do to protect yourselves and your families, and we should no longer be arresting people.)
“Muli, nakikiusap ako na magsuot kayo ng face mask at sundin ang minimum health safety standard protocol dahil kung hindi, kayo naman ang mananagot sa amin,” said the police chief.
(Again, I am appealing to all of you to wear your face masks and follow minimum health safety standard protocols because if you don’t, you will be punished.) – Rappler.com