On April 1, Darren Manaog Peñaredondo, 28, left his home in General Trias, a town in Cavite province that is under lockout due to rising Covid-19 cases, to buy water, his family said, according to CNN- affiliated with CNN Philippines.
But he was stopped by police and told to perform “pumping exercises” 100 times, according to the report. The police made him repeat the exercises, which means he eventually did about 300 repetitions.
“He started hugging on Saturday, but we were able to revive him at home. Then his body failed, so we revived him again, but he was already in a coma,” his family said according to the report. Peñaredondo died at. 22, said the family.
The Philippines has one of the highest-reported Covid-19 cases in any country in Asia – it has registered more than 819,000 infections and 14,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Last month, cases in the country rose sharply, prompting authorities to order more than 25 million people into detention – including those in Cavite province.
The Interior Ministry and the mayor of General Trias city have ordered an investigation into Peñaredondo’s death, according to the report.
“All police officers who will be proven to have violated the law will be prosecuted and covered with appropriate (administrative) and criminal sanctions,” department secretary Jonathan Malaya said in a text message to CNN Philippines.
Peñaredondo’s death follows a series of incidents involving brutal police techniques.
In a statement last month, the non-profit organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) pointed to reports that officials had locked five young people inside a dog cage for violating quarantine. They also allegedly forced people to sit in the midday sun as punishment for violating a curfew.
Jose Manuel Diokno, a lawyer and founder of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), said it was not legal to lock people inside cages or make people squat 300 times. “The only sanctions that can be imposed by law enforcement for any kind of violation are those found in local and national law, and we do not have any laws that allow people to be put in dog cages or allowed to practice for long. periods, “he said.
A tough approach to Covid constraints
The Philippines has taken a tough approach to containing coronavirus.
President Rodrigo Duterte has used his traditional strong man tactic and said in April last year that police would shoot anyone who violated virus restrictions to death. “I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police, the military and the barangays: If they get upset and they fight you and your life is threatened, shoot them to death,” Duterte said during a speech.
A large number of people have been detained for violating restrictions in the last 12 months. Between March and August last year, nearly 290,000 people were warned, fined or charged with violating quarantine rules, CNN Philippines reported. Since Duterte locked the main Philippine island of Luzon on March 16 this year, hundreds of people have been arrested in Manila, HRW said in March.
Philippine authorities claim the tough approach is needed to control the country’s outbreaks. But Carlos Conde, a senior researcher at HRW, based in the Philippines, claims that rising cases show that the measures have not worked. Instead, he said the decision to arrest people a lot has probably seen people “packed like sardines” in overcrowded prisons with no social distance.
Lock orders had also hurt people who need to leave their homes to work, he said, adding that the measures were “very anti-poor.”
In its annual report published this week, Amnesty International criticized the Philippines’ approach, noting that “measures taken by the government to curb the spread of Covid-19 led to numerous human rights violations.”
Last month, Duterte defended with the help of former military officers in the fight against Covid-19, saying, “You don’t have to be a doctor here,” according to a CNN report from the Philippines. CNN has reached out to the official Philippine information agency for comment.
Decline in freedoms
Brutal policing has been a problem for years in the Philippines. Since Duterte came to power in 2016, thousands have died in the “war on drugs” after the president ordered police to kill anyone they thought was linked to drug trafficking.
But activists say the pandemic has further undermined freedoms and human rights.
According to Conde, the biggest problem is is the government treats Covid-19 as a public safety issue – not a health issue. The oversized roles given to the military and police had only increased the incidence of aggressive police tactics, he said.
“I think the police, the military and the local government, they have been encouraged to commit human rights violations even more during the pandemic,” he said.
Attorney Diokno said authorities had “just taken a clue from their leader” referring to Duterte.
There have been influences in addition to those arrested for quarantine violations. According to HRW, there was a 50% increase in people killed in the “war on drugs” from April to July 2020 compared to the previous four-month period.
Diokno said human rights had “very clearly” deteriorated over the pandemic. “Apart from the lives lost, the first victims of the pandemic were democratic rights and freedoms,” he said.