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Hitting quarantine violators with sticks ânot the best way to address pandemicâ â CHR
Senior M/Sgt. Gerardo Tubera of the Manila Police District’s Station 2 holds a rattan stick, or yantok, while inspecting the Divisoria market several weeks ago. Police officers acting as social distancing patrollers will use rattan sticks in enforcing health and safety protocols during the holiday season.
Edd Gumban

Hitting quarantine violators with sticks ‘not the best way to address pandemic’ — CHR

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - December 5, 2020 - 2:53pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights on Saturday admonished national police for threatening to punish Filipinos caught violating health protocols with rattan sticks.

"[W]e wish to caution the government against unnecessary use of force and actions that may lead to humiliation and trauma. Violence, even in its slightest suggestion, is not the best way to address the pandemic," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.

This comes after Police Lt. Gen. Cesar Binag, Joint Task Force COVID-19 Shield chief, during a virtual briefing aired over state-run PTV on Friday, said that the Philippine National Police would deploy personnel with rattan sticks to enforce social distancing protocols amid the holiday season.

"We have what is called the 'social distancing patrol' ordered by our chief PNP Gen. [Debold] Sinas. They will have a yantok (rattan stick), one meter length. It will be used to reprimand [violators], to measure, and to hit hardheaded individuals as well," Binag said in Filipino.

"We recognize that the unknown nature of the pandemic has pushed others, including the government, into devising different, novel ways in enforcing health safety protocols so as to prevent COVID-19 infection among the population. However, the [CHR] has repeatedly stressed the importance of respecting the human rights and dignity of all as we address this health crisis," De Guia said.

"We stress that the pandemic is not a peace and order issue, but a public health agenda," she added.

Sinas, who supposedly gave the unusual order, in the earliest days of the pandemic-induced lockdown, was the center of controversy after pictures of a mañanita celebration held in his honor circulated online, depicting him and other police officers violating quarantine protocols in grand fashion.

Rather than be swatted with a rattan stick, Sinas was rewarded with a promotion, as November saw him rise to the top of the PNP. 

President Rodrigo Duterte has also said that he would clear Sinas of the two complaints filed against him over the incident. The president may only pardon after a formal conviction, however, and may not clear anyone of criminal charges before these are even established.

RELATED: Sinas appointment raises concerns on impunity, suppression of dissent | 'Too serious to ignore': Rights watchdogs cite lack of accountability in Sinas' cases

PNP: No 'yantok' directive from Sinas

In an interview with Pilipino Star Ngayon on Friday, Police Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana, PNP spokesperson, denied that police had been directed to hurt quarantine violators.

"There was no such order from the [PNP chief.] In fact, the use of yantok for COVID-19 is to avoid touching and to maintain [physical] distancing [between] individuals," he said in a mix of Filipino and English.

"There is no intention to use [rattan sticks] to intimidate or to hit," Usana added in Filipino.

He further said that the Filipino people are already disciplined when it comes to avoiding COVID-19 in accordance with DOH rules.

Community quarantine in the Philippines — which has stretched on for 264 days now — has long been criticized by lawmakers and rights groups as militaristic and police-centered.

READ: Arrests amid pandemic violate government's own health, safety guidelines — CHR | 'By the book': A look at quarantine incidents and police operational procedures

Instead of relying on the use of unnecessary force, CHR said "government should continue to employ information dissemination to make the people understand the hazards of going out in the midst of a pandemic, as well as implement programmes guided by the sound advice of science and health professionals."

"Government must equally invest and reinforce protection of health care workers who bear the brunt of curing an ailing population due to this virus," it added.

— with reports from James Relativo 

COMMUNITY QUARANTINE COVID-19 NOVEL CORONAVIRUS PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE PNP
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: February 27, 2021 - 4:25pm

Other regions and provinces in the Philippines considered moderate and low-risk areas will be placed under general community quarantine starting May 1. Bookmark this page for updates. (Main image by The STAR/Edd Gumban)

February 27, 2021 - 4:25pm

The Department of Health logs an additional 2,921 COVID-19 infections, the highest this year. This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines to 574,247.

February 27, 2021 - 9:41am

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says Metro Manila will remain under general community quarantine.

February 26, 2021 - 4:04pm

The Philippines records the highest rise in daily cases since October with 2,651 new COVID-19 cases, pushing the national tally to 571,327.

The country's death toll is at 12,247 with 46 more fatalities while the total of survivors is at 524,582 with 561 additional recoveries.

Active cases in the country are at 34,498.

February 23, 2021 - 4:05pm

The Department of Health registers 1,414 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the national caseload to 564,865.

Of these, 29,817 are active cases. 

The DOH also registers 16 new deaths and 72 additional survivors, bringing the death toll to 12,107 and the total of survivors to 522,941.

February 22, 2021 - 7:02pm

There will be no nationwide shift to the more lenient Modified General Community Quarantine until the national vaccination program against COVID-19, News5 reports, citing a senator close to the president.

The Palace has yet to issue an official statement.

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