President Rodrigo Roa Duterte fires a few rounds from a sniper rifle as he leads the ceremonial shoot during the opening ceremony of the National Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Challenge at the Team Davao Inc. Pistol and Rifle Range in Ma-a, Davao City on March 1, 2018. Also in the photo is Philippine National Police Director General Ronald de la Rosa. JOEY DALUMPINES/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Duterte said he was mulling reequipping cops with batons, which he said were policemen’s first line of defense, to help the police enforce distancing protocols amid the pandemic.

“You know, when a person resists arrest and he becomes violent, the first impulse of a police without a baton is to hold his gun. He might not draw it but he holds his gun, ready for action,” Duterte said.

“E kung may baton ito — e rubberized man ‘yung baton noon — e kung mahampas mo lang ang kamay, mahampas mo ‘yung katawan — e masakit ‘yon — maybe you can subdue the person resisting arrest or the criminal,” he added.

Duterte made the remark after Interior Secretary Eduardo Año brought up the designation of “yantok” patrollers, or those equipped with one-meter rattan sticks for law enforcement and self defense.

PNP chief Maj. Gen Debold Sinas made the directive to whip quarantine violators with the rattan sticks or use them to measure physical distancing.

Duterte said he wondered why batons were removed in the first place.

“Dapat ito ang first line of defense ng pulis para hindi siya malapitan, agawin ‘yung baril o makipagsuntukan sa kanya, o makipag-struggle maski ayaw maaresto. The police can use a not-so-lethal weapon — iyong baton.

“Rubberized ‘yon noon but matigas. Pero not enough to really break bones. And also, the practice of using it moderately, especially where to strike what parts of the body of a human being can be — well, can be hit so that he will stop his aggression or surrender,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque objected to the PNP’s directive to hit quarantine violators with the sticks.

The directive was denounced by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) over the weekend.

“Violence, even in its slightest suggestion, is not the best way to address the pandemic. Rather, the government should continue to employ information dissemination to make the people understand the hazards of going out in the midst of a pandemic, as well as implement programs guided by the sound advice of science and health professionals,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement.

“The pandemic is not a peace and order issue, but a public health concern. The public should also be equally reminded to follow these health protocols strictly,” she added. John Ezekiel J. Hirro