Karapatan slams Sinas order for police to hit quarantine violators with rattan sticks

Employing physical violence in enforcing quarantine protocols is “not only utterly ineffective in curbing the pandemic but ultimately dangerous,” human rights watchdog Karapatan said on Sunday as the group assailed Philippine National Police (PNP) Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas’s proposal to use “yantok” or rattan sticks to hit violators of physical distancing measures for the holiday season.

“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,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay averred.

At a Laging Handa press briefing last Friday, December 4, PNP Deputy Chief for Operations and Joint Task Force COVID Shield Commander Lt. Gen. Cesar Binag stated that policemen acting as “social distancing patrol” have been ordered by Sinas to use rattan sticks to hit violators of physical distancing measures: “Meron pa kaming tinawag na ‘social distancing patrol’ at dahil ito’y ipinag-utos ng ating chief PNP, si General Sinas, may hawak na yantok ‘yan, isang metro ‘yan, pangsaway, tapos panukat, pamalo na rin ‘dun sa matitigas ang ulo.

(We have what we call “social distancing patrol” and because they have been ordered by our PNP chief General Sinas, they will hold one-meter rattan sticks to stop violators, as a measuring device, and it would be used to hit hardheaded people.)

Palabay continued that “Sinas, being the notorious and shameless human rights violator that he is, is propagating the ‘pasaway’ narrative to justify the PNP’s implementation of draconian and violent measures under the guise of enforcing quarantine measures — placing the blame on the public of this public health crisis to cover-up government’s sheer neglect, incompetence, and brazenly unscientific response in combatting the pandemic for the past months.”

“We remind the PNP that the COVID-19 pandemic is a public health issue and not a peace-and-order law enforcement issue. Effectively curbing the continued spread of this disease relies on investing in comprehensive and scientific measures that give the public easier access to health-related information, medical services, as well as in responding to their socioeconomic grievances brought by months of lockdown. We warn that Sinas’s order will only unleash more violence and human rights violations in its wake,” the Karapatan official ended.