BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The Silay City police force just enforced the regulations set by the Inter-Agency Task Force, regional police spokesperson, Lt. Col. Joem Malong, said yesterday in response to the investigation to be conducted by the Commission on Human Rights for parading those arrested for not wearing face masks.
CHR spokesperson, lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia, said in a statement that parading alleged violators on the street could amount to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment that are penalized by Republic Act No. 9745, or the Anti-Torture Act, and barred by the Convention Against Torture where the Philippines is a signatory.
De Guia said that human rights must always be in the core of law enforcement. “We urge law enforcement officers to also coordinate with public health experts on how to better explain and ensure compliance with health safety protocols amidst the pandemic,” she added.
Malong said it is the function of the CHR to investigate, but maintained that the Silay police did not commit any violation, and only responded to numerous complaints received by the local government unit on violations of mandated health protocols set by IATF, such as the wearing of face masks and observance of physical distancing.
Malong said that violators were brought to a covered court, with arms held forward, to observe physical distancing.
They were also re-oriented on Covid-19 health protocols through a seminar, and were later given face masks and shields, before they went home. No charges were filed against them since they were all first offenders, she added.
P/Maj. Rollie Pondevilla, Silay City police chief, said the parade of the violators was aimed to remind them of the existing pandemic.
At the Silay City covered court, the violators stood in front of an empty coffin, and pledged not to commit similar offenses, Mayor Mark Golez said yesterday.
Golez said that those who will violate the city ordinance for not wearing face masks shall be fined P1,000 for the first offense, P3,000 for the second offense, and P5,000 for the third offense, plus community services.
He said that they have been enforcing the city ordinance since the start of the pandemic last year.
But while the CHR agrees on the need to continuously work together to curb the transmission of the Covid-19 virus by faithfully adhering to health and safety protocols set by experts, De Guia repeatedly stressed that addressing the current pandemic must always be guided by human rights principles.
“After all, the present national health crisis is a human rights issue, not a mere law enforcement agenda,” she added.
De Guia said the CHR Western Visayas office will conduct a probe on the incident, and they look forward to the cooperation of the Silay PNP in addressing the human rights concern. “We continuously remind law enforcers to adhere to human rights-based policing, including respect for every person’s dignity,” she added.*