Brute display of power
More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed on Metro Manila and adjacent provinces Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal could only highlight the twisted and criminal behavior exacerbating the public health crisis. As in last year, the ECQ was marked by horror stories of petty officers flexing muscle, with tragic results.
Two young men died after violating the 6 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew — a turn of events not entirely removed from the fatal shooting by police of retired soldier Winston Ragos, who was suffering a trauma disorder, near a quarantine checkpoint on April 21, 2020.
Ernanie Jimenez of Barangay Turbina, Calamba City, Laguna, went out to buy food past 10 p.m. on April 7 and was arrested by watchmen. He yielded peacefully, according to his brother Gledien Jimenez quoting eyewitnesses, and was taken to the barangay office. Later he went out, ostensibly to urinate; the watchmen chased after him and proceeded to beat him. He fell, hit his head on the ground, and lost consciousness.
Gledien rushed to the scene, which was a few meters from where they live, shouting for help. Eventually, a barangay vehicle arrived and they took Ernanie for treatment. And once more the old story of the impoverished confronting primitive (because fund-hungry) public hospitals and deposit-requiring private hospitals played itself out. By 11:45 a.m. of April 9, Ernanie was dead with a fractured skull. He was 26.
Darren Peñaredondo of Barangay Tejero, General Trias, Cavite, was arrested by barangay authorities on April 1 for being outdoors at a little past 6 p.m. and detained by police overnight. By the time he was taken home in a mobile car in the morning, he was unable to walk unaided. He was in pain throughout the day, struggling to get to his feet and failing, per his partner’s account. It was when she was helping him, on his request, to get to the toilet that he was beset by seizures. His face turned “violet,” and he became unconscious. He breathed his last shortly in hospital, dead of a stroke. He was 28.
Online, a cousin said Darren Peñaredondo died after being compelled to perform “squats” for as many as 300 times. His partner quoted him as saying that he and other curfew violators were forced to do the squats together in precision, under pain of repeating the exercise over and over again. He fell to the ground in the course of the effort.
What to make of these horrific occurrences but that under oppressive conditions, such as the lockdown enforced for more than a year now in varying degrees, a little power held in puny hands will push men to brutalize others in their same class? The state apparat allows it. On April 27, 2020, fish vendor Michael Rubuia was mauled for not wearing a face mask and refusing to go with enforcers of the Office of the Quezon City Mayor.
Two barangay watchmen have been named as dealing the deadly blows on Ernanie Jimenez, although his kin say their complaint was not even recorded on the Calamba police blotter. (Police now say it has been recorded.) General Trias Mayor Antonio Ferrer said he was having the case of Darren Peñaredondo investigated, and the town chief of police has since been removed.
On April 12, PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas thought to formally issue the instruction that quarantine violators should be merely warned, and not arrested. But two lives have been snuffed out: an unthinkable, unacceptable exchange for violating curfew.
On April 4, in yet another instance of power play, a biker was stopped by police in Cainta, Rizal, for not wearing a face shield. He remonstrated, correctly, that bikers are not obligated to wear one and that, being a physician, “he knows what to do.” Police said he should have worn a shield upon dismounting from his bike. The 35-year-old was arrested and clapped in a cell holding a big number of other people and was charged with simple disobedience and unjust vexation. Fortunately, he lived to tell the tale. He was released after three days, upon paying bail of P6,000.
These are dangerous times, and not only for rider Marvin Ignacio, who was stopped in Barangay Muzon, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, in the act of delivering that essential comfort food “lugaw,” and then endured harassment afterwards. This government has bred third-rate, trying-hard copycats who ape their overlords in a brute display of power.
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