CLD Condemns Caning as the Institutionalization of Police Brutality

The Center for Liberalism & Democracy (CLD) expresses its concern over the recent pronouncement by newly appointed Joint Task Force (JTF) COVID Shield Head Lt. Gen. Cesar Binag that the Philippine National Police (PNP) would ensure that people are properly distanced through the deployment of social distancing patrols armed with meter-long yantok (rattan stick), and that the same stick could also be used to strike those who refuse to obey.

CLD expresses its indignation over General Binag’s admonition to policemen to use the rattan sticks as “pamalo na rin sa matitigas ang ulo” (clubs against the hardheaded). This is in violation of the Revised Philippine National Police Operational Procedures (2013), which is posted in the PNP website and stipulates that: “All PNP personnel shall respect the human rights and dignity of the suspect/s during police operations” (Chapter I: General Principles, Rule 1: Functions of a Police Office, 1.2 To Observe Human Rights and Dignity of Person).

General Binag’s solution undermines previous efforts by the PNP to integrate human rights principles and rights-based approaches in law enforcement and public safety. This draconian, inhumane and barbaric tactic institutionalizes police brutality. Such an oppressive government-sanctioned practice has no place in a democratic country; it is more akin to the engagement procedures of uniformed men in fascist states.

Amnesty International (AI) described caning as a judicial punishment as “a blow to humanity.” AI reported that “the cane shreds the victim’s naked skin, turns the fatty tissue into pulp, and leaves permanent scars that extend all the way to muscle fibres.”

Much as caning as a judicial punishment is atrocious and condemnable, the punishment is carried out only after a trial is held and the suspect is found guilty. Thus, General Binag’s order of clubbing the hardheaded can only be described as an act of extrajudicial caning.

According to the International Court of Justice, all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are absolutely prohibited by customary international law and treaties including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

This principle is likewise enshrined in Article III Sec 12 (2) of the Philippine Constitution: “No torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which vitiate the free will shall be used against him. Secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms of detention are prohibited.”

Though this proposal may be intended to enforce social distancing, the end simply cannot justify the means. Furthermore, it is a classic case where the cure is worse than the disease.

As Mahatma Gandhi aptly put it, “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”

It is even more saddening that the police general made this statement six days before the 72nd Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which the Philippines is a charter signatory.