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 

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 18, 2021 - 4:05pm

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)

January 18, 2021 - 4:05pm

With 2,163 newly reported cases, coronavirus infections in the Philippines climb to 502,736 on Monday.

Active cases stand at 26,839 or 5.3% of the total cases.

Total of recovered patients is at 465,988 with two more recoveries while the death toll is at 9,909 with 14 additional deaths.

January 17, 2021 - 4:06pm

Coronavirus cases in the Philippines reach 500,577 with 1,895 new cases reported Sunday.

The Department of Health also logs 5,868 new survivors, bringing the recovery count to 465,991 while the death toll is at 9,895 with 11 new fatalities.

Active cases are at 24,691.

January 17, 2021 - 2:24pm

More than 400,000 overseas Filipino workers affected by the COVID-19 crisis have been brought home by the government, the DOLE reports.

Figures from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration show that 8,274 were sent to their home provinces last week, while 7,895 were also transported in the preceding week.

"After their ordeal in their country of origin, our dear OFWs were all provided accommodation, food, transportation and cash assistance by the government. Now, they are safely home with their families," Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III says.

January 16, 2021 - 4:18pm

The Department of Health reports an additional 2,058 cases of the coronavirus disease. This brings the total number of COVID-19 infections in the Philippines to 498,691.

To date, there are 28,674 active cases. The DOH also reports eight new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 9,884. 406 more recovered, bringing the total number of COVID-19 survivors to 460,133.

January 15, 2021 - 4:03pm

COVID-19 cases in the Philippines climb to 496,646 with 2,048 newly reported cases Friday.

Of the confirmed cases, 27,033 are active. The Department of Health also reports 551 new recoveries and 137 new deaths, bringing the total of recovered patients to 459,737 and the death toll to 9,876.

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