"The good of the many could be used as a poor excuse to inflict harm on a single individual."
Filipinos are a reasonable people. We understand the need for lockdowns and have generally patiently abided by them for more than a year. We know, too, that guidelines exist for a reason and that if we do our part in reducing the risk to which we expose ourselves and others to the virus, then eventually we would beat COVID-19—however far ahead that might be in the future.
We have also tried to understand our government’s militaristic approach to containing the virus. Uniformed personnel from the police, military and down to the barangay have become a familiar sight in our communities, some even wielding sticks. We content ourselves with the thought that they have the good of the many in mind.
In at least one instance, however, the good of the many may have been used as a poor excuse to inflict harm on a single individual.
Twenty-eight-year-old Darren Peñaredondo of General Trias, Cavite was apprehended Thursday evening for going outside past curfew hours; his cousin said he just went out to buy water. He was then brought to the town plaza where he, along with other curfew violators, were made to do pumping exercises 100 times.
But Peñaredondo failed to keep up with the others, so he was made to do 300 push-ups instead.
He struggled to go home but suffered a convulsion and eventually died on Saturday.
His live-in partner posted videos of him unable to even go up the stairs; another showed him on the floor, unable to move.
The death certificate identified the causes of death as “cerebrovascular infarct midbrain and hypertensive cardiovascular disease.” Granted that Peñaredondo was suffering from these conditions even before he was apprehended for the violation, the punishment provided sufficient proximate cause to bring his underlying illness to the fore, hence the stroke.
The mayor of General Trias has announced he wants the police to conduct an investigation into the matter. This hardly brings any consolation—to the family of Peñaredondo, and to the rest of us.
Local governments are given a free hand with which to implement health protocols, but this should not give these officials the license to do with violators as they please. It is often said that some Filipinos are “pasaway”—breaking rules wantonly, disregarding their own and others’ safety. Still, this is not reason enough to give them inhumane punishment, especially as the point of enforcing the curfew is to help save lives. Why endanger lives, and cruelly, as they work toward this end?
The incident reminds us of the shooting of a man suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder in the early days of the pandemic.
Being out on the streets, in itself, is not a crime. Those who do go out believe their reasons are valid, or do not know any better—why not, instead, treat them as human beings and explain the situation for their understanding? If they don’t have a mask or are not wearing them properly, why not just provide them with masks or tell them the proper way of using it, while reciting the dangers of not doing so?
As the numbers of COVID-19 cases remain high, we should expect to live with these lockdowns for much longer. We can only hope the people tasked to implement them do not, themselves, play god and determine who lives and who perishes. Public service, after all, is a calling to do good to others—most certainly, it is never to cause them harm.