PNP: Better to parade quarantine violators rather than imprison them

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Authorities order quarantine violators in Caloocan City to walk along EDSA center island late at night while tugging a rope with them

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 20) — It is better for local officials to parade quarantine violators in the streets instead of sending them to jails, a key official of the Philippine National Police said Monday.

PNP deputy chief for operations Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, who heads the Joint Task Force COVID-19 Shield, noted that it cannot be guaranteed when violators can be released once formal charges are filed against them.

"Mas [maayos] pa yan, sa totoo lang. Kung tutuusin, magsisisi pa sila kung sila ay ikukulong at fafile-an ng kaso dahil hindi natin alam kung kailan sila magpapiyansa," Eleazar told CNN Philippines' Balitaan on Monday.

[Translation: Honestly, other methods are better. In fact, they will regret it if they will be charged and jailed because we cannot determine when they can be allowed to post bail.]

Eleazar was referring to various localities imposing different methods of punishment to those who violate curfew and other social distancing protocols ordered by the government.

In Caloocan City, a video circulated online showing violators of the enhanced community quarantine being ordered by authorities to walk along EDSA center island at around 10 p.m., while tugging a rope with them.

In Barangay Bagong Nayon in Antipolo, Rizal, 39 violators were asked a week ago to stay inside a detention court for eight to ten hours without giving them food or drink.

"Sa akin po, sinasabi ko yan hindi dahil sa SOP ng ating organisasyon, tingin ko ho mas maayos pa iyan kaysa makulong pa sila," said Eleazar. "While we are reviewing this and conducting investigation, sa lahat naman po sinisita natin sa mga bagay na sa tingin naman natin makakatulong.

[Translation: I'm only saying this not because it's a standard operating procedure of our organization, but I think it's better instead of putting them in jail. While we are reviewing this and conducting investigation, we are reminding everyone to follow orders which we think would help them.]

Eleazar was also asked for comment regarding an incident in March which showed five youths locked inside a dog cage after breaking curfew in Laguna.

He said authorities are still conducting investigation on the matter.

"Iyon pong ikinukulong, iyon ang iimbestigahan ng ating pamunuan at hindi naman po dapat iyon," he said.

[Translation: These children who were jailed, that's what we will investigate because that is illegal.]

International rights group Human Rights Watch issued a statement on March 26 addressing the incident, noting that reports of abuse against detainees "should be promptly investigated and those responsible should be appropriately disciplined or prosecuted."

“Police and local officials should respect the rights of those they arrest for violating curfew and other public health regulations, which can be done while still allowing the Philippines government to take appropriate measures to combat COVID-19,” said Phil Robertson, HRW deputy Asia director.

On April 8, the group also slammed the alleged discrimination on three members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community who violated curfew in Pandacaqui, Pampanga.

It noted that a village official publicly humiliated the individuals by ordering them to kiss, dance, and do push-ups on live video, which also made the rounds on social media.

It has been more than a month since Luzon was placed under the enhanced community quarantine to contain COVID-19 cases. President Rodrigo Duterte previously warned quarantine violators of imposing a "martial law-type" of discipline if they continue going against government orders.

The Philippines currently has 6,259 COVID-19 cases with 409 fatalities. A total of 572 individuals have already recovered from the infection.