Citizens recorded officials in the Philippines beating a man with a stick and forcibly dragging him into a security vehicle allegedly for violating coronavirus quarantine measures by not wearing a sanitary mask, Philippine news outlet Coconuts Manila reported on Wednesday.
The incident occurred on Tuesday afternoon in Quezon City, northeast of Manila, the nation’s capital. Authorities later arrested the victim, identified as fish vendor Michael Rubuia, for allegedly violating coronavirus quarantine measures including not wearing a mask in public and failing to possess a “quarantine pass” granting vendors permission to sell their wares outdoors, Philippine news outlet Rappler reported on Tuesday.
In video footage of the incident, captured by area CCTV footage and witnesses and shared by Coconuts Manila, a local law enforcement official appears to approach the man and verbally reprimand him for not wearing a mask. The confrontation quickly escalates until one of the authorities begins to hit Rubuia with a long stick several times.
After Rubuia falls to the ground, several other men drag him to a nearby security vehicle, in which he is detained.
In a cell phone video taken by a witness, Rubuia can be heard crying and yelling in Filipino, “I’m not doing anything wrong!” as he is shoved by authorities into a security task force vehicle. On Wednesday, Rubuia had been turned over to the Quezon City Police and was detained at a local police station, according to Rappler.
The security officer who attacked Rubuia with a stick has since been identified as Joel Laurel, described as an “enforcer” of Manila’s Discipline Task Force by 24 Oras, a Philippine TV news program. Laurel defended his actions to the Philippine media on Wednesday.
“He’s a big guy, and he tried to move as if he was going to hurt me, so I hit him [with my stick] so he would kneel,” Laurel said, according to Coconuts Manila.
“If you were in our situation, it’s hard to arrest someone who doesn’t want to go with you in the first place,” Laurel added.
Many Filipinos have criticized the security officers for using what they believe to be “excessive force” against Rubuia, Coconuts Manila reports. In one video of the attack, a woman can be heard saying to the authorities, “You’re abusing your power. You should not have beaten him up!”
The Quezon City government reacted to the incident on Tuesday, issuing a written statement through its Facebook page that said it “shall never condone any acts of violence or violation of human rights, regardless of reason or justification, especially when committed by an official or employee of the City Government or any of the City’s Barangays [district officials].”
“A full-blown investigation is being conducted on this matter, and any person found to have to have acted unlawfully or improperly shall be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the statement said.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte recently extended a total lockdown of metro Manila and half of the main island of Luzon, where Quezon City is located, until May 15. The quarantine measures meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus have severely restricted people’s movement and largely shut down businesses in Manila, the most densely populated city in the world.
On April 1, Duterte ordered “shoot to kill” orders to coronavirus quarantine enforcers, sparking concerns that the extreme measures could translate to martial law in Luzon.
At press time on Thursday, the Philippines had 8,488 infections and 568 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus.