CHR reminds authorities anew: Action must be equal to level of threat, assault
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has again reminded authorities about the need to respect human rights while enforcing the law, after a barangay tanod (neighborhood police) was arrested for killing a 59-year-old scavenger with a mental health issue in Tondo, Manila.
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said Tuesday that law enforcers’ actions in case of aggression must be commensurate to the level of threat or attack.
Reports from the Manila Police District (MPD) on Monday showed that barangay tanod Cesar Panlaqui shot dead a scavenger along Tayuman Street in Tondo. The brother of the scavenger said that the victim was suffering from a mental illness.
De Guia said the CHR has launched an investigation of the incident.
“We reiterate our stern reminder that in case of aggression, thwarting it must always be necessary and proportionate to the level of threat and assault,” she said in a statement.
“We continuously remind authorities to adhere to human-rights based policing and to respect every individual’s dignity, especially the vulnerable ones, including those with mental health conditions,” she added.
Panlaqui’s motive for killing the scavenger is still not clear, but there were reports saying that the victim was accosted for violating prevailing curfew regulations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Closed-circuit television footage showed Panlaqui appearing to ask the victim to leave the roadside, as the reimposed enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) across Metro Manila set curfew hours from 8:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m.
The victim turned his back and walked away from the barangay tanod but momentarily came back, at which point the suspect fired his gun at the scavenger.
But in a separate message to INQUIRER.net, MPD director Brig. Gen. Leo Francisco denied earlier claims that the scavenger violated quarantine or curfew regulations.
While MPD and Francisco assured that such crimes would not be tolerated, CHR again reminded government officers and law enforcers that health protocols in place amid the hard lockdown are meant to shield the public against the deadly COVID-19 and not an excuse to kill people.
“It is condemnable and deeply concerning that a quarantine violator died again in the implementation of quarantine protocols, which is reminiscent of deaths of violators in last year’s ECQ implementation,” De Guia said.
“The Commission has repeatedly stressed throughout the ongoing pandemic that this is a health crisis, not peace and order agenda. Employing force will not eliminate the virus, but may instead further imperil and harm lives, which the quarantine rules are supposed to protect,” she added.
This is not the first time that CHR reacted to reports about barangay officials and officers abusing their authority: last April 12, when an alleged curfew violator in Calamba, Laguna, was beaten up by barangay tanods, CHR already noted that it is ironic that health protocols have led to the death of an individual.
There were also concerns after a person from Cavite died after being forced by police officers to do strenuous exercises after also breaching curfew hours.
The circumstances of both cases are also in question as it appeared both victims were doing essential grocery runs, which are allowed during ECQ.
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