Probe underway for curfew violator who died after being forced to exercise as punishment

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File photo (General Trias Police Facebook page)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 6) —The Department of the Interior and Local Government and the mayor of General Trias town in Cavite have ordered an investigation on the death of a curfew violator who was allegedly forced to do excessive exercise as punishment.

DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya on Tuesday said DILG Officer-in-Charge Bernardo Florece, Jr. has directed the Philippine National Police to conduct an investigation.

"All police officers who will be proven to have violated the law will be prosecuted and meted with appropriate [administrative] and criminal penalties," Malaya said in a text message to CNN Philippines.

Mayor Ony Ferrer also tasked General Trias Police — which is being blamed by the victim's family for the inhumane punishment — to "fairly" probe the death of Darren Manaog Peñaredondo.

Peñaredondo's family said the victim was apprehended after going out on April 1 to buy water during curfew hours in Cavite, which is under lockdown due to COVID-19 surge.

The victim's cousin, Adrian Luceña, said Peñaredondo and other quarantine violators were asked to do 100 "pumping exercises" similar to push-ups or squats. Because they failed to do it simultaneously, they ended up doing a total of 300 pumping exercises. He said his cousin — who had a heart condition — returned home the following day, barely able to walk. He reportedly collapsed and died eventually despite several attempts to revive him.

"Sabi nya po pinagpumping sila ng 100x kailangan sabay sabay kaya naka ilang ulet sila sabi niya nasa 300 daw nagawa nila... Sabado ng madaling araw nag convulsion siya narevive pa namin siya sa bahay... sinumpong ulet siya narevive ulet kaya lang comatose na siya hanggang ngayong 10:00 pm wala na," he wrote on his Facebook page on April 4. "Tapos sinabi rin niya sakin na na ilang beses pa siyang natumba habang pinag papapumping sila."

[Translation: He said they were told to do pumping 100 times. They needed to be synchronized so they kept repeating it and ended up doing 300. He started to convulse on Saturday, but we were able to revive him at home. Then his body failed so we revived him again, but he was already comatose. He died at 10 pm. He also told me he fell several times while they were asked to do pumping exercises.]

'Released in good condition'

General Trias Police Chief PLt Col Marlo Solero on Tuesday denied they physically punish quarantine violators. He said they have photos to prove the victim wasn't physically hurt. Even in the videos shared by the family, there were no visible bruises on Peñaredondo's body.

"Lumalabas sa investigation namin, wala sa mga tao namin na naka-duty, bantay nila during that night na nagpagawa o nag-utos na mag-physical exercise ang mga violator... Ang sa amin, nire-release namin 'yung tao in good physical condition," he told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: It showed in our investigation that none of the staff on duty or those manning them that night ordered the violators to exercise. We released him in good physical condition.]

Solero added that they don't know what Peñaredondo's activities were when he was released on April 2 until he died on April 3.

The police chief said quarantine violators are given lectures until the curfew is over, adding sometimes they are asked to do community service, such as picking up trash.

The victim's cousin is not buying the police's explanation, "Ang sabi ng pulis wala silang ganun na protocol na parusa at pagdampot lang ng basura ang pinapagawa nila? Uuwe ba yung kuya namin ng hinang hina nang dahil sa pagdampot lang ng basura," Luceña said.

He also told CNN Philippines, "Sino bang kriminal ang aamin sa ginawa nilang krimen? Diyos na bahala sa kanila."

[Translation: The police said that is not part of their protocol and their only punishment is picking up trash. Will he return home weak after cleaning trash? Is there a criminal who will admit to their crime? God will judge them.]

Over one year into the lockdown with thousands of arrests made, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday said he recommended that those who fail to follow health protocols not be detained but to instead be asked to do community service.