CHR: Ironic that curfew policy meant to protect people from virus leads to death
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has condemned the killing of an alleged quarantine violator in Calamba, Laguna, citing that it is ironic that curfew measures meant to protect people from COVID-19 is itself causing deaths.
CHR spokesperson and lawyer Jacqueline de Guia said that the killing of Ernanie Lumban, who was beaten up by a team of barangay tanods from Calamba’s Barangay Turbina on April 7, is already tantamount to torture as he suffered excessive punishment for such a minor offense.
“It is strongly condemnable that the curfew policy, which is supposed to protect our right to health, became the reason for the deprivation of the utmost right to life,” De Guia said in a statement on Monday.
“Beating a person over a minor offense may be tantamount to torture—an attack to human dignity instead of a corrective measure. Such excessive punishment can be considered as grave abuse of authority and those who shall be proven to have committed an overreach must be held accountable,” she added.
According to De Guia, it is concerning that another person died from extreme punishments for just breaching curfew hours on seemingly essential errands.
The CHR official was referring to the case of Darren Peñaredondo, who died days after being ordered by police officers in Cavite to do strenuous exercises for violating the 6:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew hours for areas under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Peñaredondo was supposedly out only to buy mineral water when he was caught outside of his home during curfew hours. This prompted police officers to ask the victim to do around 300 pumps or squats.
The police chief of General Trias and the two officers involved have been relieved from their posts. On the side of the national government, the Department of the Interior and Local Government assured that they are doing an investigation on the incident.
In Lumban’s situation, he allegedly went out around 10:00 p.m. to buy food.
Cavite, Laguna, along with Metro Manila, Bulacan, and Rizal were all under an ECQ status when the incidents happened. The ECQ status, downgraded now to a modified enhanced community quarantine, were placed due to a surge in COVID-19 cases attributed to the spread of more infectious variants.
CHR said that their team in Calabarzon is already conducting an investigation of the incident. They also reiterate that recommendations that quarantine violators do community service instead of harsh penalties — as recommended by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra — should be formalized.
“In these difficult times, compassionate and human rights-based approach are essential in implementing quarantine rules to truly address the plight of all, especially the disadvantaged ones,” De Guia said.
“We offer our deep condolences to the family of the victim. The CHR Region IV-A quick response team is already conducting an independent probe in the interest of truth and justice for the victim,” she added.
Peñaredondo and Lumban however are not the first victims of harsh penalties for those who violate lockdown protocols and quarantine regulations. In April 2020, at the early stages of the pandemic, a Quezon City police officer manning a checkpoint in Barangay Pasong Putik shot dead retired Army Cpl. Winston Ragos.
Police contended that Ragos was about to pick up his gun from his sling bag, but onlookers have already warned authorities that the former military man was suffering from mental conditions due to his tour of duty.
Several local governments have also been called out by CHR for implementing penalties that are either degrading, insensitive to gender orientation and identities, and downright violent.
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