Metro Manila cops to bring back ‘yantok’ sticks to enforce ‘Simbang Gabi’ protocols

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Metro Manila cops to bring back âyantokâ sticks to enforce âSimbang Gabiâ protocols
Armed with yantoks, members of the Southern Police District roam around Barangay Baclaran in Parañaque City on Monday night, March 15, 2021, to remind the public of the strict implementation of the unified curfew hours from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Despite well-documented cases of abuse and overzealous enforcement, Metro Manila might soon see a return of the yantok sticks brandished by cops when dealing with unruly citizens, the chief of the National Capital Region Police Office confirmed Wednesday. 

Speaking in an interview aired over DZBB Super Radyo, Police Maj. Gen. Vicente Danao, Metro Manila police chief, said that this is because Catholic Filipinos are expected to flock to churches for Simbang Gabi, the pre-dawn Masses held for the nine days before Christmas.

"The stick brought by the police is used as a reminder to follow social distancing. It can also be used as a disciplinary tool ... this will be a last option," he said in Filipino. 

"We have made contingency plans to deploy the police not only in churches but also in other public places for public safety," he also said. 

Rule 7.2 of the PNP's Police Operational Procedures also directs officers to "first issue a verbal warning" to offenders before resorting to force, but also says that failure to give a verbal warning is excusable "where the threat to life or property is already imminent" and cops are given no choice. 

Danao also reminded Filipinos celebrating Christmas that "precautions such as wearing a face mask should not be forgotten because there is still a pandemic."

READ: 'By the book': A look at quarantine incidents and police operational procedures

'Punitive measure'

Earlier in December 2020, the Commission on Human Rights branded the method as a form of violence as it cautioned the government against “unnecessary” use of force and actions that may traumatize and humiliate people.

“We have said this time and time again: using militarist, punitive, and often violent measures to implement health protocols have only fomented more brutal human rights violations under the lockdown from the torture and violent arrests of alleged quarantine violators, dehumanizing penalties, and even death — and, clearly, these measures have failed in curbing the spread of the pandemic,” Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of human rights group Karapatan also said then.

The Palace at the time was quick to shoot down a similar order by police leadership after Police Lt. Gen. Cesar Binag, PNP deputy chief for operations at the time, said that the sticks could be used by cops "to hit hardheaded individuals."

"You can't use that to hit someone because that is not allowed by the law or even within PNP's regulations," then-presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said. 

"There is no intention to use [rattan sticks] to intimidate or hit," Police Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana, PNP spokesperson told Philstar.com at the time when sought for comment, contradicting Binag's statement made during a virtual briefing aired over state-run People's Television Network.

"In fact, the use of yantok for COVID-19 is to avoid touching and to maintain distancing [between] individuals." 

READ: Back to 'disiplina'? On second day of ECQ, stories of power-tripping enforcers

 with a report from James Relativo 





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