Philippine police probe death of curfew violator forced to do squats

Manila: Philippine 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.

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Police have punished more than 10,000 people for breaching a 6:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew imposed on Metro Manila and four provinces bordering the national capital region last week to curb soaring infections.

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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.

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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.

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

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“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.”

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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”.

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

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“He said they were made to do pumping exercises for 100 reps. If they’re not in sync, they have to start over,” Balce told AFP.

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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.

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As of Tuesday police had fined nearly 10,000 people and ordered around a thousand to do community service or other activities for breaking curfew, official data show.

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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.

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

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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.

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