Filipino man dies after being forced to do 300 squats as punishment for breaking lockdown
A young Filipino man has died after being forced by police to do 300 squat-like exercises as punishment for reportedly breaking strict new Covid-19 lockdown rules, according to his friends and family.
Darren Manaog Peñaredondo, 28, suffered a seizure at home and died in hospital a day after the humiliating exercise last Thursday night. His death certificate indicated the cause of death was a stroke and cardiovascular hypertension.
Mr Peñaredondo lived in Cavite province, on the island of Luzon, which is one of the areas under a severe lockdown imposed on some 25 million people as the Philippines grapples with another alarming spike in coronavirus cases that has pushed the health system to the brink of collapse.
The lockdown includes a strict nighttime curfew after Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine president, warned of “bleak months” ahead and admitted his government was struggling to secure vaccines to help contain a surge of cases that had been fuelled by new Covid variants.
The Philippine Hospital Association on Monday said the health system was facing a “doomsday scenario” as fresh daily cases consistently soar above 9,000, putting enormous strain on ventilator and medicine supplies.
The Philippines has been one of the worst affected nations in Southeast Asia, with more than 812,000 infections and close to 14,000 deaths, despite repeated harsh lockdowns since last March.
As tensions soar over both health fears and the acute economic impact of the pandemic, the police have faced multiple accusations of abusing violators of government Covid-19 rules, including a report by Human Rights Watch alleging detainees were confined in dog cages and forced to sit in the midday sun.
Mr Peñaredondo had reportedly been caught leaving his residence in the city of General Trias after 6pm to buy drinking water.
Reichelyn Balce, his girlfriend, told the Telegraph he and other curfew violators were then herded by police to the town square and forced to do 100 squat-like exercises while holding their ears.
She said that the group was unable to perform in sync, so they were ordered to keep repeating the exercise and eventually completed about 300. Mr Peñaredondo reportedly collapsed from exhaustion and had to be helped home, where he complained of continuing pain and discomfort before his seizure.
In comments to the website Rappler, she said that day he had been “crawling on the floor just to get up. But I did not take that seriously because he said his knees and thighs were aching, as was his body.”
Police Lieutenant Colonel Marlo Solero, the chief of police in General Trias, denied the police used rough physical exercise as a form of punishment for curfew violators.
He said they were instead lined up to listen to lectures about Covid-19 safety regulations, and that they also faced community service.
Brigadier General Ildebrandi Usana, the spokesperson for the Philippine National Police (PNP), backed Mr Solero but added: “If there are witnesses to the contrary, the PNP Cavite will be there to [listen to] their side for the conduct of investigation. The truth must come out.”
Dr Raquel Fortun, a forensic pathologist, told the Rappler news site that while Mr Peñaredondo died due to “natural causes” that physical exercise could also have been a factor.
The city’s mayor, Ony Ferrer, has also called for justice and a fair police investigation.