Philippines man dies after being forced to do 300 squats for breaking Covid-19 curfew

Philippines orders more than 25 million people to lock down this Easter as Covid-19 cases skyrocket

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On April 1, Darren Manaog Peñaredondo, 28, left his home in General Trias, a town in the province of Cavite, which is under lock and key due to the increase in Covid-19 cases, to buy water his family said, according to CNN Philippines, affiliated with CNN.

But he was arrested by police and ordered to do “pumping exercises” 100 times, according to the report. The police made him repeat the exercises, which meant that he ended up doing about 300 repetitions.

“He started to convulse on Saturday, but we were able to revive him at home. Then his body failed and we resuscitated him, but he was already comatose, ”his family said, according to the report. Peñaredondo died at 10 p.m., the family said.

The Philippines has one of the largest reported cases of Covid-19 of any country in Asia – it has recorded more than 819,000 infections and 14,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Cases in the country rose sharply last month, prompting authorities to order the lockdown of more than 25 million people – including those in the province of Cavite.

The Interior and Local Government Ministry and the town mayor of General Trias have ordered an investigation into Peñaredondo’s death, according to the report.

“Any police who are found to have broken the law will be prosecuted and sentenced to appropriate (administrative) and criminal penalties,” Department Under 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 nonprofit Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported reports that officials had locked five young people in a dog cage for quarantine violations. They also reportedly forced people to sit in the midday sun as punishment for breaking a curfew.

Jose Manuel Diokno, lawyer and founder of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), said it was not legal to lock people up in cages or have them squatted 300 times. “The only penalties that can be imposed by law enforcement for any type of violation are those found in local and national law, and we have no law that allows people to be placed in custody. in dog cages or exercising for a long time. periods of time, ”he said.

A difficult approach to Covid restrictions

The Philippines has taken a tough approach to contain the coronavirus.

President Rodrigo Duterte followed his traditional strongman tactics, saying in April last year that police would shoot anyone who violated virus restrictions. ” I will not hesitate. My orders are addressed to the police, the military and the barangays: if they become unruly and fight you and your lives are in danger, shoot them, ”Duterte said in a speech.

Large numbers of people arrested for violating restrictions in the past 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.

Police officers inspect motorists at a quarantine checkpoint March 29, 2021 in Marikina, Metro Manila, Philippines. Police officers inspect motorists at a quarantine checkpoint March 29, 2021 in Marikina, Metro Manila, Philippines.

Authorities in the Philippines argue the tough approach is needed to control the outbreak in the country. But Carlos Conde, senior researcher at HRW, based in the Philippines, argues that the surge in cases shows the measures have not worked. Instead, he said the decision to arrest people en masse has likely seen people “crammed like sardines” into crowded prisons with no social distancing.

The foreclosure orders have also hurt people who have to leave their homes to work, he said, adding that the measures were “very anti-poor.”

In its annual report released this week, Amnesty International criticized the Philippines’ approach, noting that “the measures taken by the government to curb the spread of Covid-19 have led to numerous human rights violations”.

Last month, Duterte defended the use of former military officers in the fight against Covid-19, saying, “You don’t have to be a doctor here,” according to a CNN Philippines report. CNN has contacted the Philippines’ official news agency for comment.

Decline of freedoms

Brutal police methods have been a problem for years in the Philippines. Since Duterte came to power in 2016, thousands of people have died in the “war on drugs” after the president ordered police to kill anyone they believed to be linked to the drug trade.

But activists say the pandemic has further degraded freedoms and human rights.

According to Condé, the key problem is the government is treating Covid-19 as a public safety issue, not a health issue. The disproportionate roles assigned to the military and police have only increased the prevalence of aggressive police tactics, he said.

“I think the police, army and local government have been encouraged to commit even more human rights violations during the pandemic,” he said.

A police officer takes photos of suspected curfew violators at a quarantine checkpoint on March 29, 2021 in Marikina, Metro Manila, Philippines. A police officer takes photos of suspected curfew violators at a quarantine checkpoint on March 29, 2021 in Marikina, Metro Manila, Philippines.

Diokno, the lawyer, said the authorities “had just taken inspiration from their leader”, referring to Duterte.

There have been impacts beyond those arrested for violating quarantine. According to HRW, there was a 50% increase in the number of 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” been degraded during the pandemic. “Besides the lives lost, the first victims of the pandemic have been democratic rights and freedoms,” he said.

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