Last Saturday, Aug. 7, 59-year-old Eduardo Geñoga was gunned down by barangay tanod Cesar Panlaqui, 55, in Tondo, Manila. Geñoga was allegedly out past the curfew implemented during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila.
According to reports, two personnel of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) – Quezon City were traveling along Tayuman street when they heard gunshots last Saturday. They responded to the scene and discovered Geñoga’s body.
Panlaqui has since been arrested by the Manila Police District (MPD). According to him, the victim was being noisy during curfew hours, slamming doors and gates within the area. According to security camera footage, the two men were seen arguing when the victim started to approach him with a stick and three “toy guns” slung in his back.
Adding another layer
Though it may be easy to question Geñoga due to his alleged behavior, it’s important to note that he suffered from mental illness according to his brother. If he had been acting unruly that night, his condition may have been a factor. The watchman was reportedly aware of this illness.
Sure, a person who was being a nuisance for no apparent reason late at night could have at least triggered some sort of concern from the locals, but did his behavior really merit a gunshot? Instead of stopping the situation from escalating further, Geñoga was gunned down by the tanod while walking away from him. Although the tanod claimed this was out of self-defense, the violent act reveals how authorities meant to protect us are unprepared to act in situations where they could feel under threat.
It appears that our law enforcement officers also need more training when it comes to handling people with mental illness. An unwarranted shooting also took place last April with Winston Ragos, a retired military officer suffering from schizophrenia and PTSD. The 33-year-old officer was shot twice by a Quezon City police officer for allegedly violating curfew and having a gun in his sling bag. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) believes, however, that the gun may have been planted by the police.
This incident only reverberates the many questions we already have. Why is there a curfew in the first place? Why is violence always our first response? Why is the tanod even holding a gun?
According to the suspect, he was carrying a gun because there were goons in the area. But besides the fact that the gun has no proper documents, tanods are prohibited from carrying guns during operations.
Besides, you’d expect our tanods to be the first and most grounded defense line of our communities. Like the Bontoc Women Brigade, for instance, these officials are ideally also from their respective communities and have actual ties with their locale. One expects that they would have a better understanding and familiarity with their people and their needs, especially during a pandemic, as opposed to police officers.
This act is symptomatic of the growing abuse of power, culture of impunity, and macho-patriarchal politics that are only exacerbated by Duterte’s administration. For years, under his leadership, violence has been tolerated enough that it’s become a normalized response in even the smallest misunderstandings and conflicts.
As of the moment, at least three curfew violators have died under the hands of authority—and it doesn’t stop there. The police and their institution are inherently trained and encouraged to use force. While they keep prioritizing violence over a humane due process, it’s high time we start thinking of an alternative. Otherwise, just imagine how many of these “incidents” go undocumented everyday.