De Lima: We need rules of engagement for police, other authorities implementing ECQ

Published April 30, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Hannah Torregoza

Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Thursday appealed to the government’s task force against COVID-19 to release better and clearer rules of engagement for law enforcers to minimize violent altercations between police and civilians allegedly violating quarantine protocols in areas under lockdown.


De Lima made the call following reports that members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) have aggressively responded to supposed violations of community guidelines in areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

“We need to establish better, clearer rules of engagement for the enforcement of community quarantine rules,” De Lima said in a statement.

“Our police officers are expected to make situational decisions that they are not properly trained to do,” the former justice secretary said.

De Lima noted that since the government imposed a Luzon-wide community quarantine in mid-March, several incidents of alleged human rights violations committed by policemen, barangay officials and City Hall personnel have been reported.

Some of these incidents have resulted to trespassing, grave physical injuries and even death. The senator cited the case of former Cpl. Winston Ragos of the Philippine Army who was gunned down outside of his residence in Quezon City.

Ragos was killed after being accosted for violating quarantine protocols, for being confrontational and for allegedly attempting to pull out a firearm on the officers.

Another incident, De Lima said, was the video of another physical altercation between the police and a foreign national in Makati that also went viral. Based on reports, the altercation started after police allegedly demanded to fine a housekeeper P1,000 for not wearing a face mask while watering plants in front of their property.

De Lima also pointed to an incident last April 19, where four armed police officers forced their way into a condominium complex in Taguig City without a warrant and forcefully disbanded residents, including children, who have gathered in an indoor public swimming pool.

“Kailangan ba tutukan ng baril ang mga sibilyan na nakikipagtalo sa opisyal na nagpapatupad ng quarantine? Paano ba ang dapat gawin sa sibilyan na hindi sumusunod sa atas ng opisyal? (Do they need to point guns on civilians who had an argument against officials who are implementing quarantine protocols? What should officials do to civilians who are not following orders of higher-ups?)” De Lima pointed out.

“Paano ba ang dapat gawin sa nagpoprotesta sa pinapatupad na quarantine rules? Dapat bang dakpin ang mga walang facemask? (What should be done to those who protest quarantine rules? Do they have to arrest those who don’t wear a face mask?)” De Lima, a life-long human rights advocate, further asked.

“Since it is the first time that our police officers are enforcing a quarantine, many of them are having problems calibrating their response, treating belligerence as threatening criminal offenses,” she added.

She pointed out that local and foreign human rights organizations, including the United Nations, have urged governments around the world to avoid abusing their powers to commit human rights violations, in guise of anti-COVID-19 restrictions.

De Lima said even United Nations Human Rights Commissioner (UNHRC) Michelle Bachelet has called out the Philippine government, among others, for a “highly militarized response” to violators of quarantine protocols.

The Philippines’ Commission of Human Rights (CHR) has also urged police and barangay officials tasked to enforce ECQ rules to be mindful of human rights in the performance of their duties.

“We need to understand that quarantine does not suspend our constitution and human rights,” De Lima stressed.

“Our police force and our government have the frightening power to destroy human lives, that is why they are given the burden, and the implicit duty, to hold their temper in the face of dissent,” the lawmaker reiterated.