Death of curfew violator probed

Police said Wednesday they are investigating the death of a coronavirus lockdown violator who was forced to do a hundred squat-like exercises as a penalty for breaking curfew.

Police have punished more than 10,000 people for breaching a 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew imposed on Metro Manila and four provinces bordering the national capital region last week to curb soaring infections.

Darren Penaredondo, 28, was detained Thursday night after going out to buy water in General Trias city, south of the capital, his wife told AFP.

He was taken along with other curfew breakers to a police station and made to do the gruelling workout, national police spokesman Ildebrandi Usana said, citing two witness accounts.

“They were made to exercise 100 times. It’s a knee-bender exercise,” Usana explained to AFP.

“It’s painful. If that’s the requirement, you will really pass out especially if you’re not used to it. Even policemen themselves find it difficult.”

Reichelyn Balce said her husband, who had a heart condition, could barely walk when he got home on Friday and was “in a lot of pain. He said they were made to do pumping exercises for 100 reps. If they’re not in sync, they have to start over,” she told AFP.

The next day he had a “convulsion” and died hours later.

The Commission on Human Rights also stepped into the death of Peñaredondo, saying it views the enhanced quarantine measures “as a human rights measure meant to protect the people’s right to health so we may live a life of quality and dignity.”

“As such, we recognize the government’s position to restrict freedom of movement in the interest of public health and safety,” CHR lawyer-spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia added.

Excessive punishments and fines which are punitive in nature and disproportionate with the violation represent an overreach of the enforcement of quarantine rules and regulations, she stressed.

Usana said the city’s police chief and two officers have been removed from their posts pending the results of an investigation into the incident.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday local officials should consider using community service to punish people breaking lockdown rules, rather than jailing or fining them.

Rights groups have previously raised concerns about excessive punishments for people caught breaching COVID-19 restrictions.

During last year’s months-long lockdown, police and officials held curfew violators in dog cages and forced them to sit in the midday sun as punishment, Human Rights Watch said.

The Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday it would ask COVID-19 testing laboratories to explain their closure during the Holy Week, as possible actions against these labs would be filed. Rio N. Araja, Willie Casas, Rey E. Requejo, and Darwin G. Amojelar

During a press briefing, Health Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire said they were already discussing possible actions on these laboratories.

She said the DOH had issued a memorandum telling them not to stop operations during the Lenten season, citing these as critical times.

“We are now discussing with our licensing office those laboratories which did not operate during the Holy Week, because we have issued a department memorandum advising them that they should remain open to have their laboratories operational during this Holy Week because it is a critical time in our situation,” she said in a media briefing Wednesday.

Last week, the DOH asked COVID-19 testing laboratories to continue operating even during the Holy Week, while the country experiences a fresh surge in infections.

The DOH also reminded the public that the decrease in the reproduction rate of COVID-19 in the National Capital Region (NCR) may not be interpreted as a downward trend since there are laboratories that did not operate and submit data last week.

IBP appeal

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines urged the government to include lawyers in the priority groups under the COVID-19 vaccination program.

In a letter to the National Task Force Against COVID-19, IBP president Domingo Cayosa appealed that lawyers should also be included in the priority population group A4, which includes frontline personnel in essential sectors, uniformed personnel, and local officials.

“Courts and other tribunals as well as necessary physical contact between lawyers and their clients have been proven spreaders of the COVID-19 virus,” Cayosa said.

“Quite a number of judges, prosecutors, and practicing lawyers have succumbed to the COVID-19 virus, despite repeated site or area lockdowns and travel restrictions,” he added.

Railway personnel

The chief of the Department of Transportation has ordered testing of all railway personnel, based on risk and targeted approach to further avert the spread of COVID-19 especially to rail workers.

In line with Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade’s directive, the DOTr Railway Sector is continuing with the mass testing of personnel from the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), the Philippine National Railways (PNR), and the Light Rail Transit Lines 1 and 2 (LRT-1 and LRT-2).

As of 5 p.m. of April 6, 2021, 860 personnel of the MRT-3 underwent swab tests. Of that number, 131 have tested positive for the virus.

From the 3,284 total number of MRT-3 personnel, more employees are scheduled to undergo the RT-PCR test.

For the PNR, 1,013 personnel underwent swab tests and 131 have tested positive. From the 1,729 total number of PNR personnel, more employees are still to be tested.

143 positive

The LRT-1 for its part, reports that of the 377 personnel who were tested, 117 personnel tested positive for the COVID-19. More LRT-1 personnel from the total number of 1,185 will still be tested.

Meanwhile, 571 LRT-2 employees had been tested and 143 personnel were found to be positive of COVID-19. The rail operator said more personnel from its 1,277 total workforce will still have to undergo swab tests.

According to the management of the LRT-2, the testing of its personnel has contributed to the line’s limited operations since the enforcement of the enhanced community quarantine in the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal was extended on Monday, April 5, 2021.

The MRT-3 line is operating with 14 train sets while the LRT-1 line is dispatching 17 trains. The LRT-2 line is operating with five trains.

PNR operations suspended

Meanwhile, operations of the PNR remain suspended until Thursday, April 8, 2021.

MRT-3 commuters affected by the limited operations are being served by augmenting buses running on the EDSA Carousel route which can be accessed at the following stations: North Avenue, Quezon Avenue, GMA Kamuning, Santolan, Ortigas, and Guadalupe.  

Displaced passengers of the LRT-2 are being accommodated by bus routes 9 and 10 while affected passengers of the LRT-1 are being served by buses on route 17 (Monumento-EDSA).

In a related development, health workers and medical frontliners continue to be served by the DOTr’s Free Ride Program that operate in 20 bus routes across the Greater Metro Manila area.

Airport cops

Philippine National Police chief Gen. Debold Sinas warned anew the public against the use of fake coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) test results and other medical documents for traveling.

This came after the PNP-Aviation Security Group intercepted 15 travelers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) who used falsified reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test results.

These individuals traveling from Manila, which is under enhanced community quarantine until April 11, were bound for Davao and Zamboanga City.

Sinas said these individuals would be charged with falsification of public documents and violation of Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.

DOH launch

The Department of Health launched Wednesday the #ChecktheFAQs campaign to emphasize the importance of accurate information in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and encourage the public to fact-check information that they come across.

The campaign was launched together with various tech companies – Facebook, Google, TikTok, and Twitter – jointly pledging their support to the initiative in line with their respective missions to help fight COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation online.

As many Filipinos spend a considerable amount of time online, the internet and social media have become major sources of news and information. In line with this, the DOH launched the “Check the FAQs” page on its website for Filipinos to have a source of trustworthy information about COVID-19 and its vaccines.

Playing an important role in championing media literacy on vaccines, Facebook, Google, TikTok, and Twitter have committed to support the campaign which includes helping build awareness for the initiative.

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