Philippines: Investigate humiliating abuses by local officials enforcing curfew  

The Philippine authorities should urgently investigate reports of barangay (village) officials committing abuses against people accused of violating curfews, said Amnesty International Philippines today.

On 7 April, a barangay official in Mexico, Pampanga forced three LGBTQI+ people to perform humiliating acts as punishment for supposedly violating the curfew; the punishment was recorded on video and posted on social media by the barangay captain. The rest of the group were subjected to other forms of degrading punishment.

Amnesty International Philippines calls on the government to probe these abuses and hold accountable those found to be responsible.

“The relevant agencies must investigate these reports of ill-treatment and penalize barangay officials and members of civilian voluntary groups who may be found to have committed these acts. These abusive practices should not be swept under the rug by local authorities under the pretense of ‘implementing curfews’ and ‘just following orders,’” Amnesty International Philippines Executive Director Butch Olano said.

These abusive practices should not be swept under the rug by local authorities under the pretense of ‘implementing curfews’ and ‘just following orders’
Butch Olano

Amnesty International Philippines previously expressed concern over several incidents of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment allegedly used by barangay officials against curfew violators, during the first two weeks of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon. The organization said that these acts are in clear violation of absolute prohibitions outlined under the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, as well as the Philippine government’s international obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture.

“There is a heightened pattern of misconduct perpetrated by barangay officials when implementing quarantine protocols. Incidents of humiliation and abuse have been reported since the start of the community quarantine, such as putting curfew violators inside dog cages; beating up people with sticks; and, most recently, sexually humiliating members of the LGBTQI+ community,” Olano said.

In earlier statements, the organization warned that restrictions carried out to protect public health in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as quarantines and lockdowns, carry great risks to human rights. Restrictions on rights to personal liberty, safety and security can only be carried out in limited circumstances, with clear and strict guidelines for implementation that should be consistent with international human rights standards.

“Acts of abuses, including torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment, must not be tolerated. Skirting the law especially during the COVID-19 pandemic only further enables the already prevalent culture of impunity in the country. The law must be properly implemented, and abusive officials held accountable even during lockdowns.” Olano said.

Background

In March 2020, a news report stated barangay officials from Sta Cruz, Laguna are facing charges after detaining curfew violators in a dog cage. This was followed by a police officer caught on video beating up several residents in Manila for violating quarantine protocols; the PNP responded with an investigation of the incident. The most recent report was of a video shared by a barangay captain asking three curfew violators who are members of the LGBTQI+ community to do lewd acts as punishment.

The Anti-Torture Act of 2009 ensures that the ‘human rights of all persons, including suspects, detainees and prisoners are respected at all times; and that no person placed under investigation or held in custody of any person in authority or, agent of a person authority shall be subjected to physical, psychological or mental harm, force, violence, threat or intimidation or any act that impairs his/her free will or in any manner demeans or degrades human dignity’.