Editorial: Overkill

·3 min read

THE five men of the Parañaque Task Force who ganged up on Warren Villanueva represent the many government frontliners who having sniffed power quickly get the fix to lord over citizens. Thank God for social media, the act has since become viral and had pressed authorities to condemn it.

Villanueva collects and trades garbage in the area and had the unfortunate timing of being where a clearing operation was. The team promptly swooped on the poor man’s cart and tried to subdue the latter as he held on to it. The five hauled him up into a corner and dumped him prone, Villanueva’s face hitting the ground. One of the men stepped on his back to subdue him, while another kicked him in the head.

Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez, after video footage of the act hit social media, ordered an investigation. Since then, the men have been suspended and administrative charges are being prepared for them. The mayor said the use of “excessive force” is a violation of the clearing protocol, and he had since then apologized to Villanueva’s family and had returned the man’s cart, apparently an important piece of ownership that Villanueva fought for that fateful day.

Villanueva’s case is worth a thought as our local government units (LGUs) comply with the order of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which had extended the deadline for road clearing operations from Feb. 5 to Feb. 15, 2021. After which, the agency will evaluate the LGUs’ compliance from Feb. 16 to March 2.

DILG Central Visayas lawyer Gerlyn Mae Sayson said the agency has created a team to assess the compliance. She said there are two types of validation: Partial validation will be done on selected roads in areas under general community quarantine. A full validation will cover all roads in areas under modified general community quarantine.

Most obstructions the DILG officer said are in barangay roads, and thus they have tasked the barangay tanods to be part of the Barangay Clearing Team.

The deadline places LGUs under pressure, and would be passing on the task to their frontliners—which is probably what happened in the Parañaque case of eager beavers who felt empowered by the task at hand.

It is important that these frontliners are properly oriented on clearing protocols. Olivarez, after the fact, had emphasized maximum tolerance in dealing with vendors.

Last week, our field reporter caught on live video a bunch of soldiers and policemen in a heated exchange with a vendor in Suba, Pasil. There must be a curious tale of what led to that, but what we saw though was that the team members shouted at the family who was about to close the store. One of the officers swept the bottles off the table and another tried to lift the table possibly in an attempt to topple it.

It wasn’t a clearing operation, but an implementation of a curfew. But it probably hints of a mindset and a lack of clear protocols on how frontliners such as cops and soldiers and task forces should deal with our citizens.