The treatment to alleged quarantine protocol violators in Negros Occidental was juxtaposed with personalities who disregarded quarantine rules without receiving significant sanctions.
Silay police chief Major Rollie Pondevilla was criticized for allegedly ordering face mask violators in his jurisdiction to walk like “zombies” with their arms raised in front of them.
News outlets reported that the city police chief shared a video of the incident on social media on February 5.
A local radio station in Iloilo obtained a footage which featured the alleged violators walking with their arms raised while a police mobile leads them.
After being supposedly paraded, they were asked to attend a seminar on health protocols in a covered court and in front of a coffin.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon denounced the move and urged the law enforcement officers to “treat all persons with dignity and respect.”
“Too much TV. I urge our police to do away with ‘theatrics’. If they believe a violation is committed, then file charges in accordance with our existing laws,” he said in a statement.
“If they see poor residents not wearing masks or not observing social distancing, warn them or file charges against them. But in no instance that police should treat the poor and violators as less than human. These are extraordinary times, laws should be enforced with compassion and leniency,” Drilon added.
A day after the video was posted, the Commission on Human Rights said that its office in Region VII would investigate the incident and hear the side of the PNP Silay City.
“We continuously remind law enforcers to adhere to human rights-based policing, including respect for every person’s dignity,” CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.
“Parading alleged quarantine violators on the streets may amount to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment penalised by Republic Act No. 9745 (Anti-Torture Act) and barred by (the) Convention Against Torture signed by the Philippines,” she added.
Pondevilla said that they only made the violators walked with their arms raised for supposed physical distancing measures.
“Maraming nagre-reklamo sa ating mayor na bumabalik na sa normal ‘yung galaw ng mga tao. Kaya ‘yung ginawa ng kapulisan, nanghuli ng mga hindi naka-face mask at hindi nago-observe ng physical distancing,” he said in a Wednesday interview to CNN Philippines.
“Pinalinya lang natin sila at dinala sa covered court malapit sa police station, mga 20 meters lang po. Kung hindi nakataas ‘yung kamay, magsisiksikan sila,” Pondevilla added.
He also denied that he asked the offenders to raise their arms and intentionally publicly shame them.
As part of the preventive measures against COVID-19, the public is asked to maintain at least one meter distance away from each other. This is nearly equivalent to a motorcycle’s length, according to the health department.
Some Filipinos recalled how other personalities were treated by law enforcers when they disregarded minimum health protocols in light of COVID-19.
“While the rich gets a slap on the wrist,” a Twitter user said in response to the news.
“Eh ‘yung mga pulitiko na nagpa-party, bakit hindi rin ganyan?” another online user asked.
“Sana pinagawa din (‘to kina) Sinas, Pimentel, Tim Yap at iba pang mayaman/nasa kapangyarihan na nag-violate noh, ‘di ‘yung puro sa mahihirap at ordinaryong tao lang ‘yung parusa,” a different Filipino commented.
Some high-profile individuals who were reported to have breached quarantine protocols are Debold Sinas, who is now the chief of the Philippine National Police, and Sen. Koko Pimentel.
A mañanita or a birthday salubong was held for Sinas when the National Capital Region was in its strictest quarantine status in which mass gatherings are prohibited.
Physical distancing measures were similarly not observed by law enforcers, based on the pictures that were initially released by Sinas’ now-former office.
Pimentel, meanwhile, was criticized for accompanying his then-pregnant wife to a hospital last year despite waiting for his swab test result which turned out to be positive.
Makati Medical Center Director Saturnino Javier had accused the senator of breaking the mandatory “home quarantine protocol” and potentially putting healthcare workers and patients at risk.
Pimentel faced a complaint for violating Republic Act 11332 or the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of the Public Health Concern” but he was cleared in January for lack of probable cause.
Prosecutors said that the senator is not a public health authority who is obliged to report.