Calls for the government to employ science-based solutions instead of force mounted after a village watchman, called a barangay “tanod,” shot a mentally ill scavenger after lockdown curfew hours over the weekend.
Cesar Panlaqui, 55, allegedly fatally shot Eduardo Geñoga, 59, on Tayuman Street in Tondo, Manila on Saturday at past 9 p.m.
Panlaqui said Geñoga was banging on doors and gates of people at nighttime.
“Pinapalo niya ‘yong mga pinto, ‘yong mga gate. ‘Yung mga resident eh, natutulog na. Sinigawan ko siya, ‘Hoy, mali ‘yung ginagawa mo,’ sabi ko sa kanya. Ayon, hinabol niya ako,” he said on GMA News.
CCTV footage shows that Panlaqui shot the victim who was already walking away, according to reports. The tanod was also aware that Geñoga would roam around the area due to his psychiatric condition.
Authorities said Panlaqui carried an unregistered revolver. The watchman said he had a firearm for self-defense.
“Pangdepensa ko ‘yon sa sarili ko, kasi sa lugar namin, maraming ano, masama, mga adik,” he said. He added that he was only supposed to “scare” Geñoga.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año in 2018 said that watchmen are not supposed to carry firearms. They are only authorized to have nightsticks, handcuffs, whistles and other non-lethal gadgets in carrying out their duties.
The Department of Interior and Local Government has ordered the Philippine National Police to probe the incident.
The Manila Police District has also filed murder charges against Panlaqui for killing Geñoga.
Following the incident, online Filipinos raised the calls for the government to provide humane, health-oriented services in implementing pandemic restrictions instead of violence.
“This is the life of Filipinos under a militarized lockdown. Bakuna, hindi bala!” Tristan Buenaflor, deputy national spokesperson of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, said on Twitter in response to Geñoga’s killing.
“Nakaraang taon, pinaslang din ng mga kapulisan si Winston Ragos… Nangyari ito habang quarantine din. #SolusyongMedikalHindiMilitar,” he wrote.
“Bakit kailangan ng curfew kung ang isyu ay pandemya?” another Twitter user commented.
“Asan ang bakuna? #SolusyongMedikalHindiMilitar,” he added.
The Commission on Human Rights also condemned the incident and said that it has repeatedly stressed that the pandemic “is a health crisis” that does not call for a “peace and order agenda.”
“Employing force will not eliminate the virus, but may instead further imperil and harm lives, which the quarantine rules is supposed to protect,” CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement.
“We reiterate our stern reminder that in case of aggression, thwarting it must always be necessary and proportionate to the level of threat and assault. We continuously remind the authorities to adhere to human-based policing and to respect every individual’s dignity, especially the vulnerable ones, including those with mental health conditions,” she added.
The office said it is also conducting a probe into Geñoga’s killing.
Last year, medical journal The Lancet ranked the Philippines 66th out of 91 countries in terms of suppressing the spread of COVID-19, in part due to the “medical populism” of President Rodrigo Duterte.
It is defined as “simplifying the pandemic by downplaying its impacts or touting easy solutions or treatments, spectacularizing their responses to crisis, forging divisions between the ‘people’ and dangerous ‘others’, and making medical knowledge claims to support the above.”
The journal said that COVID-19 can be managed by “effective community health services… to be followed by the introduction of effective and safe vaccines as rapidly as science permits,” among others.