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Authorities launch investigation into reported death of quarantine violator in Cavite

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Apr 06, 2021 5:33 pm Updated Apr 07, 2021 2:37 pm

The chief of police of General Trias in Cavite, together with two other policemen, have been relieved from their posts after a quarantine violator was made to do excessive physical exercise that ultimately led to his death.

On Maundy Thursday, Darren Manaog Peñaredondo of General Trias went out during curfew hours to buy drinking water. He was caught by barangay tanods and was later on brought to the police station. Peñaredondo was served a punishment that would allegedly cost him his life two days after he was apprehended. The police initially denied having a hand in his death.

But Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana, Philippine National Police spokesman, said that Lt. Col. Marlo Solero and two other cops have now been reassigned to the provincial headquarters. This came after two quarantine violators supported through sworn affidavits that they were indeed made to do the excessive exercises as punishment for violating the curfew.

“We only have to make it clear on the Cavite case that physical exercises are not bad. They are necessary for everyone to live a healthy life,” said Usana. “But there is also such a thing as excessive physical exercise that could be harmful to a person with medical history.”

Harm and torture
After news of Peñaredondo’s death circled social media and rights groups called for justice, authorities have ordered an investigation regarding the incident.

On Monday, General Trias, Cavite Mayor Antonio “Ony” Ferrer said in a statement that an investigation by the General Trias Police is underway. He also pointed out that physical harm and torture was never part of the city’s policies when it comes to curfew violators.

Sa pagpapatupad ng nasabing patakaran, kalian man ay hindi naging parte ng ating polisiya ang pananakit o pagpapahirap sa sinomang lalabag dito,” said Ferrer.

Pumping exercise
Meanwhile, the Department of Interior and Local Government on Tuesday also ordered an investigation into Peñaredondo’s death.

Peñaredondo, 28, reportedly died on Saturday after he was allegedly forced to perform a pumping exercise (similar to squats) for around 300 times as a punishment for violating curfew, according to his partner Reichlyn Balce.

Cavite, together with the rest of Metro Manila, Rizal, Laguna and Bulacan, are under the reimposed enhanced community quarantine that comes with a mandated curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.

In an interview with GMA’s Saksi, Balce said Peñaredondo went out to buy drinking water during curfew hours on April 1. After learning the store was closed, Peñaredondo went ahead to buy softdrinks instead from another store, where he was then caught by the barangay tanods who brought him to the police station.

The next day, Peñaredondo was brought home by the tanods. He was also assisted by a man who was also apprehended the previous night as he was having a hard time walking. On Saturday morning, Peñaredondo suffered convulsions at home but was reportedly revived. He was rushed to the hospital and later on died.

Balce, who took the now-viral video of Peñarendondo crawling and struggling to stand and walk up the stairs, also said that her partner has a heart condition.

News of Darren Manaog Peñaredondo's death reached international media—from The Straits Times to the BBC.

300 repetitions
Peñaredondo’s cousin, Adrian Luceña, said in a Facebook post that the former was made to do pumping exercises 100 times together with other violators. They were required to do it in sync, and when they did not, they were told to do it again until they reached about 300 repetitions. Peñaredondo also allegedly told Luceña that he fell several times while he was taking the punishment.

Meanwhile, General Trias Police Chief Marlo Solero denied allegations and told Unang Balita that curfew violators’ punishment only go from cleaning outside the city hall or the police station to picking up trash as part of their community service.

Solero also said they have obtained Peñaredondo’s death certificate and would reveal the cause of death once they are cleared to do so.

In the comments section of Mayor Ferrer’s Facebook post, several residents of General Trias attested that the punishment given to Peñaredondo has been implemented to quarantine violators since last year. Others even recounted their family members’ experience being subjected to do pumping exercises, and some were even told to roll over the dirty covered court grounds in mid-afternoon.

Peñaredondo’s death has caught international media attention, with most stories referencing President Duterte’s directive in the early months of last year's lockdown for authorities to go hard on quarantine violators with the statement, “My orders are to the police and military, as well as village officials, if there is any trouble, or occasions where there's violence and your lives are in danger, shoot them dead.”

With reports from Manny Tupas. Thumbnail and banner photos by Miguel de Guzman/The Philippine STAR