‘Tanod’ enforcing ECQ sued for murder for shooting scavenger
The Manila police have filed murder charges against a “barangay tanod” (village watchman) over the death of a 59-year-old scavenger whom he caught roaming the streets on Saturday night, as a new lockdown on Metro Manila to help contain the spread of COVID-19 was in effect.
The Manila Police District said the watchman, Cesar Panlaqui, 55, of Barangay 156 in the district of Tondo, shot and killed Eduardo Geñoga amid the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the capital region.
As shown by a security camera where the shooting took place, the two men were arguing when Geñoga started brandishing a meter stick. Geñoga also had three “toy guns” slung on his back.
The police later explained that Geñoga was suffering from mental illness.
Panlaqui drew and fired his gun but the weapon jammed the first time.
As Geñoga walked away, Panlaqui shot him. Geñoga died instantly.
Police Capt. Philipp Ines, spokesperson for the police district, said Panlaqui was also charged with carrying an unlicensed firearm.
“According to the victim’s sibling, Panlaqui knew that the victim was mentally ill because they came from the same neighborhood,” Ines said in a phone interview.
The police officer said Geñoga’s family was used to his being out in the streets even late at night scavenging among garbage piles.
Two Quezon City policemen happened to be near Tayuman Street in that barangay and responded to the scene, Ines said.
It was the Manila police who arrested Panlaqui.
The watchman said upon his arrest that he was only trying to defend himself.
Before the filing of charges against Panlaqui, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año had ordered the Philippine National Police to investigate the killing.
“The PNP has been directed to investigate the acts of this barangay tanod. We are awaiting the result of the investigation,” Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, spokesperson for the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), told the Inquirer in a text message on Monday.
Geñoga is the latest fatality following reports of killings said to involve local authorities enforcing quarantine restrictions.
On April 21 last year, retired soldier Winston Ragos, 33, was shot dead by police near a checkpoint in Quezon City for allegedly violating quarantine protocols.
The National Bureau of Investigation later filed charges of murder, perjury and planting of evidence against the police officers involved in the shooting incident.
In an earlier lockdown this year, imposed from March 29 to April 11, two men died in separate instances after the police used excessive force in implementing the 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew policies.
On April 1, 28-year-old Darren Peñaredondo of Barangay Tejero, General Trias, Cavite province, was arrested by barangay officers and detained by police overnight for failing to wear a mask and face shield and for violating the curfew imposed in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal.
Peñaredondo died of a stroke two days later after the police asked him and seven other curfew violators to do pumping exercises, such as “squats” with up to 300 repetitions. He reportedly collapsed in the course of the routine.
Lt. Col. Marlo Solero, the General Trias police chief, had denied imposing physical punishment on violators, but the PNP formed a team to investigate the incident.
On April 7, 26-year-old Ernanie Jimenez was accosted by village watchmen at 11 p.m. in Barangay Turbina, Calamba City, Laguna province, after he went out to buy food past the curfew.
Ernanie’s brother Gledien said his brother went with the watchmen to the barangay office upon their urging, but was severely beaten up when he went out of the village hall to urinate. Ernanie, reports said, died two days later due to a fractured skull.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) lamented Geñoga’s killing, as it appealed to authorities for patience in enforcing the lockdown.
“Nothing of this sort should happen. Life is too precious a price for an infraction of this nature. Authorities should know that we need more patience and understanding in dealing with people under immense types of stresses caused by this pandemic,” Fr. Jerome Secillano, CBCP spokesperson, said in a text message.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra reminded law enforcers to ensure that any arrest for violation of minimum public health standards “is anchored on an existing, valid, and applicable local ordinance or law.”
Guevarra issued the reminder as the number of quarantine violators zoomed from 4,394 on Saturday to 20,511 on Sunday as reports poured in from outside Metro Manila, according to the PNP.
Of the total, 5,781 were cited for violating curfew rules, while 14,775 were accosted for defying COVID-19 health protocols, such as mass gathering and failure to wear masks and face shields.
In a Viber message to reporters, Guevarra said apprehensions of quarantine violators and other quarantine-related rules, especially in areas under ECQ, are contained in a joint memorandum circular issued on May 31 by the Department of Justice (DOJ), the DILG and the PNP.
“[When] the law or ordinance allows the payment of a fine or the rendition of community service to avoid criminal prosecution, the same shall be observed to avoid congestion in detention centers, holding areas and prosecutor’s offices,” Guevarra said.
“Otherwise, if the violation requires that the person arrested be subjected to inquest proceedings (such as for resistance and disobedience to a person in authority under Article No. 151 of the Revised Penal Code), the arresting officer shall immediately present the person arrested to the DOJ inquest prosecutor,” he added.
Guevarra said the DOJ inquest prosecutor must strictly comply with the mandatory period to complete the inquest, by electronic means or otherwise, or may order the immediate release of the person arrested, likewise to avoid unnecessary congestion in holding areas, jails, or other detention centers.
The local governments are also “mandated to identify and provide large and open-air holding areas which shall be used for booking and initial investigation purposes,” Guevarra said.