A man in the Philippines has died after being forced to do hundreds of squats for violating lockdown curfew, his partner said, as pressure mounts on police to explain what happened.
The country has one of the worst outbreaks in Southeast Asia, registering more than 800,000 cases and 13,817 deaths as of Tuesday, April 6.
Metro Manila and nearby provinces were in lockdown last week in an effort to prevent a second wave from getting worse in the days leading up to Easter Sunday, when churches are usually packed in the Catholic-majority country.
But on Thursday, 28-year-old Darren Peñaredondo went out to buy water after curfew in a province south of Manila and was detained by a neighborhood watch group. He was taken to a local police station.
When he got home, he complained about the harsh punishment meted out to him for breaking curfew and had trouble walking, the victim’s partner, Reichelyn Balce, told GMA News. He had a heart condition, she said.
“I asked him why he can’t walk. He told me, ‘they made us do pumping,’” she was quoted as saying, referring to a squat performed while holding onto both ears. “‘How many,’ I asked. He said 100 times.” But she said those carrying out the punishment against her partner and other curfew violators were not in sync and added more squats totaling around 300.
Balce shared a video clip with reporters showing Peñaredondo attempting to walk and ending up crawling to go to the bathroom.
By Saturday, he had seizures and had to be revived by his neighbors. He died in a hospital the same day.
His cousin, Adrian Luceña, first demanded an investigation in a now-viral Facebook post.
“We will not stop until justice is served,” the post said.
Human rights groups have called on the government to look into the incident as reports of violations and abuses during lockdowns rise.
Last year, Human Rights Watch expressed alarm at the number of people arrested for allegedly violating quarantine rules. Some of them were put in dog cages or forced to sit under the sun as punishment.
The Department of Interior and Local Government, which oversees the police, said it instructed the police to investigate the incident.
“All police officers who will be proven to have violated the law will be prosecuted,” Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya told VICE World News.
The Philippine National Police spokesperson also said local authorities were instructed to conduct an impartial investigation.
But in a TV interview, Marlo Solero, the city police chief in the area, denied that squats were used as a form of penalty.
“As to the exercise, we don’t ask curfew violators to do exercise. We give them lectures on rules and we require them to do community service before we turn them over to their villages,” Solero said.