The Philippine government should immediately rein in out of control law enforcers and public officials committing rights abuses while they enforce the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Enhanced Community Quarantine and lockdown regulations, the Human Rights Watch said on Monday.
“Even before the incident in Dasmariñas Village, Makati City, there has been an increasing number of incidents in which police and government personnel abused their powers by committing rights violations,” Phil Robertson, the HRW Deputy Asia Director, said in a statement.
The HRW issued the statement following an incident on Dasmariñas Village, a posh subdivision in Makati City, after a policeman confronted an Italian who allegedly disobeyed authorities who were implementing the Enhanced Community Quarantine.
The confrontation, which was caught on video, took place between Police Senior Master Sergeant Roland Von Madrona and Javier Parra, an Italian national and a resident of Dasmariñas village.
Authorities said Madrona, while patrolling the village as per request of Barangay Dasmariñas chairperson Rosana Hwang, noticed Parra’s housemaid, Cherilyn Escalate, watering the plants outside the property’s perimeter with no face mask–a violation of ECQ rules.
Madrona, together with Bantay Bayan personnel Esteban Gaan, approached and advised the maid to wear a face mask for her safety.
The maid then went inside the house to get her face mask. Minutes later, Parra and his wife went outside the residence and confronted the law enforcers.
Police claimed that Parra had even lectured Madrona on how to properly implement the guidelines of the quarantine. While both parties were in the middle of an argument, Gaan took video clips of the incident.
This made Parra, who was without a shirt and face mask, furious, prompting him to humiliate and throw foul words to the cop, a police report said.
Police Major Gideon Ines, Makati City’s Assistant Chief of Police for Operation, said they will file charges against Parra for alleged violation of Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code (Disobedience to a Lawful Person in Authority), Republic Act 11332 (Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act) and City Ordinance 2000-089, for not wearing a face mask, as well as Direct Assault.
“Mayor Abby [Binay] has ordered the Makati Police to conduct an immediate inquiry into the reported incident at Dasmariñas Village. The appropriate charges should be filed against those concerned after a full investigation,” said city chief legal officer Michael Arthur Camina.
HRW’s Robertson, however, said the Department of the Interior and Local Government must exercise effective oversight over its personnel, investigate all reports of abuses, and hold officers committing rights violations accountable.
“The lockdown and quarantine, and even the emergency powers bestowed on President Rodrigo Duterte, do not excuse the actions of officials to wantonly violate international human rights norms and the Philippine Constitution, which specifically protects citizens from unreasonable searches and arrests,” said Robertson.
According to initial reports online, “a man [allegedly Parra], was “physically assaulted and nearly arrested by police in the front yard of his own home in a private Makati subdivision.”
Madrona allegedly tackled Parra to the ground, causing skin abrasions. Parra managed to go inside the house.
The city government reiterated its call for all residents to observe set protocols during the quarantine period, including the mandatory use of face masks and the practice of social distancing.
“The law must be upheld at all times, most especially during a public health emergency where the welfare and safety of the people are of paramount concern,” said Camina.
The City of Makati recently imposed mandatory quarantine and wearing of face masks outdoors, and warned that violators will be penalized with stiff fines and a time in jail.
The city government also requires residents, workers and all other persons in the city to wear face masks while outdoors or in public places during the existence of a state of public health emergency or similar declarations.
Under the ordinance, wearing of face masks or other similar protective equipment is likewise mandatory in the common areas of condominiums, hotels, motels, apartments, apartelles and the like.
It also directs establishments and transport services to require all persons entering or boarding them to wear face masks or other similar protective equipment. The establishment or transport service may refuse access to persons not wearing face masks or other similar protective equipment during the said period.
Binay said the Sangguniang Panlungsod recently passed City Ordinance No. 2020-088, or The Mandatory Quarantine Ordinance, and City Ordinance No. 2020-089 mandating the wearing of face masks or other protective gear outside the home while the city is dealing with a public health emergency. Both impose stiff fines and even imprisonment on violators.
“We pushed for these new ordinances mainly to reinforce current efforts to stem the transmission of Covid-19 in our communities. But their purpose extends beyond the current pandemic to cover similar health emergencies in the future. With these legislations in place, we would be able to take swift and resolute measures to effectively stop the spread of infectious diseases,” said Binay.