The Commission on Human Rights has stepped into the case of a vendor caught on video being manhandled by enforcers during a road-clearing operation in Parañaque City.
The viral video showed members of the Parañaque Task Force handcuffing and tackling to the ground Warren Villanueva after he refused to surrender his cart. One of the enforcers was also seen kicking the vendor in the face as he was being handcuffed.
“The aggressive arrest of an ambulant vendor by the Parañaque Task Force is deeply concerning. As seen in the video circulating online, five members of the said task force aggressively accosted the vendor, Warren Villanueva, who was holding on to his cart, which is his main utility for selling,” said CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia.
“Using force is only necessary when there’s imminent danger and it must be commensurate to the threat being avoided. Otherwise, such brute force constitutes cruelty, degrades the person and can cause long-term psychological harm.”
Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivares said authorities were eyeing a possible administrative case against the five city task force members who were caught on camera violently accosting Villanueva.
The task force members used “excessive force” in the incident and were suspended from their jobs, said Olivarez. He said the matter will undergo a “thorough investigation” and the five may also be terminated.
“It may result in not just termination, but they will also face an administrative case to be filed by the city.
The CHR welcomed the swift action made by Olivarez to suspend and file administrative cases against his men to ensure that such abuse would not happen again.
Olivarez said Villanueva’s cart had been returned but he was still experiencing anxiety due to the incident.
“We hope that immediate psychological intervention is also provided to the vendor in recognition of the harm done. For the CHR’s part, our investigation team has been dispatched to look into the incident and provide needed intervention,” De Guia said.
The CHR said implementing the law must always account for the totality of the situation and the human condition.
“What is legal must also be humane. In apprehending small vendors, we hope that their dire situation is given due consideration and viable alternative options are provided so they may continue to earn a decent living,” De Guia said.
“Law enforcement must not transgress the dignity of individuals, especially the impoverished ones who most need the law’s utmost protection.”
Former Vice President Jejomar Binay earlier said he was offering legal help to the vendor.
“Should the vendor in the video decide to take legal action, we would be ready to help him,” he said.
Binay, a founding member and adviser of the Artikulo Tres and human rights lawyers’ group, also urged authorities to exercise “leniency and compassion” in their sidewalk clearing operations.
The former vice president said incidents like it “only reinforce the notion of a double standard in enforcing the law. The poor are dealt with an iron fist while a privileged few violate the law and get away with it,” he said.
Local government units are conducting clearing operations in compliance with the directives of President Rodrigo Duterte to reclaim and clear public roads of all obstructions. They have until Feb. 15 to complete the task.
In 2019, more than 100 out of the 1,245 LGUs nationwide were found non-compliant and were issued show-cause orders. Fifteen of these were filed with administrative cases.