MANILA — Garbage collector Roldan “Warren” Villanueva, who went viral after being manhandled by members of a Parañaque Task Force during a clearing operation last week, showed “initial resistance and use of force” that resulted in his apprehension, the head of the enforcers said.
According to an incident report submitted to Mayor Edwin Olivarez, a copy of which was obtained by ABS-CBN News, retired Lt. Col. Rolando Santiago, the head of the task force, said his members “tried to prevent Villanueva from the unlawful resistance that he employed” against one of the personnel during the clearing operation on Jan. 22.
“He (Villanueva) uttered foul or bad words (nagmumura) and insisted that the metal cariton be given back to him. The initial resistance and use of force was primarily manifested by Villanueva,” the incident report read.
“He made a struggling force using his arms and hands that eventually hit one of the members of the Task Force Parañaque,” Santiago said in the report.
The incident stemmed from the confiscation of the garbage collector’s cart. The forceful manner by which he was accosted by 5 task force members was caught on camera.
Santiago said the task force member “hit” by Villanueva was “hurt,” but “did not make any retaliation".
He also named the 5 task force members involved in the incident.
The report said that the task force head brought Villanueva to the barangay office “for [the] purpose of reporting, recording and blotter,” where the former executed a statement.
“[A]s evidenced by a copy of the blotter report, Villanueva impliedly admitted that there was tension between him and some members of the Task Force Parañaque and that he employed resistance or force."
“Villanueva also asked for an apology and signed voluntarily the blotter statement. The metal cariton was also safely returned to Villanueva,” the report added.
In an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel’s Headstart on Monday, Olivarez said the task force members “violated protocol” laid out in a city ordinance on road obstructions.
“Gusto ko lang po humingi ng paumanhin sa pamilya ni Warren na hindi po talaga yun po ang protocol ng ating city. At kung sino po ang nagkasala, sasagutin po nila yun,” the mayor said.
(I want to apologize to Warren’s family. That was not the city’s protocol. And whoever is proven to be at fault will be held accountable.)
“Dito sa video, makikita po natin na gumamit sila ng excessive force na hindi po natin tinot-olerate po ito… Bibigyan ng notice dapat si Warren, o kung sinuman may obstruction sa kalsada. Voluntarily, dapat tatanggalin po niya. 'Pag hindi po tinanggal po, bibigyan po sya ng OVR - yung ating official violation receipt - na mayroon siyang na-violate na ordinance,” Olivarez said, explaining the protocol.
(We can see in the video that they used excessive force, which we do not tolerate. Warren should have been given notice that there was obstruction on the road. And he should remove it voluntarily. If he does not remove it, he would have been given the OVR which states he violated an ordinance.)
Olivarez already ordered the suspension of the task force members involved in the incident.
“Magkakaroon po kami ng thorough investigation. 'Pag napatunayan po yan - kitang kita naman po sa video - they will be terminated, at sila po ay kakasuhan for abuse of authority,” he said.
(We will have an investigation, and if it will be proven -- as it can be seen in the video -- they will be terminated and charged for abuse of authority.)
MERCY AND THE RULE OF LAW
Olivarez agreed with the call of Senators Nancy Binay and Panfilo Lacson, Jr. that upholding the rule of law must be coupled with mercy, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even the strictest law has a heart in the right place. In these trying times, compassion and the desire to help those in need should be the moral compass,” Binay posted on her social media account.
“Imbes na saktan, unawain at tulungan na lang sana,” she added.
On his Instagram page, Lacson said: “Justice and the rule of law must prevail but there is nothing wrong if mercy may overrule justice.”
In a message sent to ABS-CBN News, Lacson commended the Paranaque mayor’s “decisive” and “swift” action to suspend the involved task force members and probe the incident.
On Headstart, Olivarez stressed the pandemic should allow more room for compassion in the enforcement of rules.
“Our situation now in the pandemic is a separate situation. Ibang iba po tayo. We are [in an abnormal situation], so kailangan po natin, bilang nasa gobyerno, dapat tayo maging mas lalong mas maunawain at maintindihan plight ng tao in enforcing the rule of law,” he said.
(It is very different now. We are in an abnormal situation so we need to be more understanding and empathic to the people’s plight in enforcing the law.)
“Kaya nga po, ako’y nakikiusap, binigyan ko na ng advise, instruction, order, yung ating task force, yung ating kapulisan, pati ang barangay, na upon implementation of your duties and authorities, kelangan tingnan natin yung kapakanan ng mga tao at hindi tayo pwede gumamit ng excessive force and abuse of authority.”
(This is why we talked to the law enforcement units to always look out for the welfare of the people and we should not use excessive force and abuse our authority upon the implementation of their duties and authorities.)
Apart from the city government, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has also launched an investigation into the incident, led by its Investigation Office’s officer-in-charge, Ronnie Rosero.
“Using force is only necessary when there's imminent danger and it must be commensurate to the threat being avoided. Otherwise, such brute force constitutes cruelty, degrades the person, and can cause long-term psychological harm,” said CHR spokesperon lawyer Jacqueline de Guia in a statement.
“Law enforcement must not transgress the dignity of individuals, especially the impoverished ones who most need the law's utmost protection,” she added.