The police are considering using tasers to deal with violators of the Enhanced Community Quarantine guidelines who turn violent.
Philippine National Police chief Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa said at a virtual press briefing that tasers were considered a “non-violent” method to deal with quarantine violators.
A taser is a handheld device that incapacitates its target by transmitting a 50,000-volt electric shock. The taser fires two small darts connected to the device with thin wires, up to a distance of about 11 meters. The darts can penetrate clothing and, once they make contact with the target, deliver the electric shock, which disrupts the target’s nervous system, resulting in temporary incapacitation.
The PNP chief’s remarks come on the heels of a widely publicized incident in which Makati City police dragged a resident in Dasmariñas Village to the ground after he verbally abused the cops.
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In another incident, armed policemen shouted at residents in a private condominium in Taguig City for violating social distancing rules.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations has expressed alarm over the government’s “highly militarized response” to violators of the ECQ.
UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet noted that her office has received reports from different regions about government forces using excessive and lethal force to punish quarantine violators.
Gamboa, however, said the PNP is always open to an investigation when it comes to accusations of human rights violations.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, meanwhile, said enforcers of quarantine restrictions who indiscriminately, needlessly, and wantonly use violence must be punished.
His statement came after enforcers from the Quezon City government beat up a fish vendor and hauled him into a van for not wearing a face mask.
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Pangilinan said people who do not wear a mask should be given one.
The senator also called for the release of prisoners who are in jail for minor offenses but who cannot post bail beause they are poor.
Recent news reports said that 185 prisoners in Cebu City Jail, nine in Quezon City Jail, at one in Mandaue City Jail tested positive for COVID.
Two detainees died of COVID in the Women’s Correctional, where 18 other detainees and one correctional staff tested positive of the virus.
“This is the last day of April and we have been under quarantine for more than 40 days. We need a holistic or big picture on how to curb the coronavirus disease,” said Pangilinan.
Senator Leila de Lima said that to minimize violent altercations between the police and alleged violators of quarantine protocols in areas under lockdown, the government should consider adjusting the rules of engagement of law enforcers.
“We need to establish better clearer rules of engagement for the enforcement of community quarantine rules. Our police officers are expected to make situational decisions that they are not properly trained to do,” the former Justice secretary said..
Since the implementation of Enhanced Community Quarantine in mid-March, several incidents of alleged human rights violations committed by members of the PNP as well as city enforcers have been reported.
On April 14, former Cpl. Winston Ragos of the Philippine Army was gunned down outside of his residence in Quezon City, after being accosted of violating quarantine protocols, for being confrontational and for allegedly attempting to pull out a firearm on the officers.
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A video of another physical altercation between the police and a foreign national in Makati was widely circulated on the Internet, which stemmed from the police demanding a P1,000 fine because the household help was not wearing a face mask while watering the plants in front of the homeowner’s property.
On April 19, four armed police officers forced their way into a condominium complex in Taguig City without a warrant and forcefully disbanded residents, including children, who had gathered in an indoor public swimming pool.
“Since it is the first time that our police officers are enforcing a quarantine, many of them are having problems calibrating their response, treating belligerence as threatening criminal offenses,” she added.
The Commission of Human Rights has urged police and barangay officials tasked to enforce community quarantine rules to be conscious of human rights in the performance of their duties.
“We need to understand that quarantine does not suspend our Constitution and human rights. Our police force and our government have the frightening power to destroy human lives, that is why they are given the burden, and the implicit duty, to hold their temper in the face of dissent,” De Lima said.
“It is not helping, as it is most deplorable, that the current occupant in Malacañang publicly instructs our law enforcers to commit violence against quarantine violators,” she added.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority has sanctioned several employees for violating measures imposed under the ECQ.
MMDA chairman Danilo Lim ordered administrative charges to be filed against employees who refused to follow mandatory restrictions.
“We are very serious in our battle against Covid-19. We cannot afford to waste the agency’s efforts because of some employees who are blatantly disregarding the ECQ guidelines,” Lim said.
On Wednesday, three traffic personnel were placed under 30-day preventive suspension for violating the “no backride” policy amid the ECQ based on a number of complaints posted on Facebook.
Traffic Aide 3 Enrico Garcia was placed under preventive suspension for violating the “no backride” policy. Garcia was driving his motorcycle with Traffic Aide 1 Dominic Acunin riding along EDSA corner Timog Avenue, Quezon City on April 25.
Traffic Aide 3 Angelito Diendo Jr. was also placed on 30-day preventive suspension also for violating the “no backride” policy. He was driving his motorcycle with a backride, whom he identified as his daughter, along Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City on April 25.
All the personnel who violated the backride policy were also issued a traffic violation ticket with a penalty of P5,000.
On April 28, Metro Aide 1 Roel Gatos was terminated from the service for alleged physical violence against his live-in partner, Irene Grace dela Vega and the latter’s minor child.
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On April 18, Traffic Aide 1 Roger Rondina, and Michaeval Lucina were placed on 90-day preventive suspension for violation of physical distancing measure and drinking in public places amid a liquor ban in Makati City. Meanwhile, technical assistant 1 Rene Homecihada was also terminated from the service for the same violations.