Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called for a Senate investigation into the reported human rights violations of arrested curfew violators during the reimplementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal or “NCR Plus.”
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 703 stressing that the senseless deaths of reported violators under the hands of authorities during ECQ are manifestations of clear abuse of power by government.
“This series of beatings which led to deaths of innocent victims is a demonstration of how government is continuing with its campaign of systemic violence, climate of fear and impunity among officials and lack of regard for human rights,” she said.
“Measures must be taken to ensure respect of our constitutionally-guaranteed rights, especially by the State who is duty bound to maintain peace and order, to protect life, liberty and property and to promote the general welfare of the public,” she added.
Since NCR Plus was placed on ECQ beginning March 29, the national government deployed around 10,000 police personnel tasked to man quarantine control checkpoints in borders within the NCR Plus bubble to enforce public compliance with the curfew from 6pm to 5am and to ensure physical distancing in public places.
On the first day of reimplementation of ECQ, more than 5,400 violators of curfew and minimum health safety protocols were apprehended in NCR Plus.
Among the controversial incidents that De Lima cited include the deaths of quarantine violators Darren Manaog Peñaredondo who was nabbed by the barangay tanods of Brgy. Tejero, Cavite last April 1 after he was seen buying drinking water past 6pm, and Ernanie Jimenez who died after being arrested and beaten up for going outside his residence at 10pm to buy food on April 11.
According to his live-in partner, when Peñaredondo returned home, he was reportedly limping in pain and he complained to her about their punishment of 300 rounds of a pumping exercise at Plaza Malabon. Hours later, he had seizures and lost consciousness, had a stroke and eventually died last April 1.
Meanwhile, Jimenez on April 11 reportedly asked if he can go to the bathroom but the barangay tanods snapped at him which made him run out of fear. When he was caught again, the tanods beat him up causing him to sustain numerous bruises, wounds and a broken skull. He eventually died.
Coincidentally, it was also on April 11 when the Philippine National Police (PNP) released a statement that police will be barred from arresting quarantine violators and cannot impose punishments.
De Lima said there is also an urgent need to conduct an investigation and to hold accountable the public officers responsible for the numerous attacks on our citizens right to life, liberty and property during the reimplementation of the ECQ.
“Nakakakilabot ang ganitong mga insidente. Sa harap ng pandemya, kung kailan nag-iingat at nangangamba tayo sa pagkakasakit, ay may nangyayari pa ring karahasan na dahilan ng pagkamatay ng ating mga kababayan. Kailangan itong imbestigahan upang tukuyin ang pananagutan ng mga sangkot, nang hindi na tularan ng iba at hindi na maulit pa ang ganitong trahedya,” said De Lima.
“If the COVID-19 pandemic persists which requires re-implementation of lockdowns and other mobility restrictions on citizens, the rules of engagement with and treatment of violators must be clarified as to ensure that no unnecessary injury or death is caused by abuse or misunderstanding by the quarantine implementers. Moving forward, government must craft policies that will ensure respect for basic human rights and avoid future violation of rights,” she added. (30)