Manila: The mayor of a town in the Philippines has said he is ready to face charges by a government-run human rights body for allowing civilian security forces to humiliate and parade an alleged thief at a local market.
“It was the only way I could stop the suspected serial thief from continuing his activities,” Mayor Antonio Halili of Tanauan town in Batangas, southern Luzon said.
Insisting that he would stand by members of the Civil Security Unit (CSU) who were seen escorting the suspected thief when the latter was paraded in the streets of Tanauan on February 27, Mayor Halili said, “I can defend myself, the punishment was just.”
The incident, which was criticised by the Commission on Human Rights, would discourage would-be thieves in Tanauan, Halili said.
“I am willing to face the charges,” added Halili, who has been described by allies as a no-nonsense and sincere mayor.
Human Rights Commission lawyer Mark Cabreras said his office received a complaint from a resident in Tanauan, who documented the incident.
The names of the resident witness and the suspected thief have not released.
Video footage showed a man, whose face is blurred, wearing handcuffs with a placard on his neck that reads, “I am a thief, don’t imitate me.” He kept repeating these words as he was paraded by civil security forces on the streets of Tanauan.
He was also seen kneeling and asking for forgiveness from a market vendor. The alleged thief carried with him a bunch of dried fish, a favourite relish for poor people.
If it is proven that the mayor encouraged a process that violated the human rights of the suspect, a case against the mayor will be elevated to the Ombudsman, an anti-graft court, explained lawyer Cabreras.
The mayor should not have allowed members of the CSU to undertake an out of court proceeding, said Cabreras, adding that any suspect is always considered innocent unless proven otherwise.
Earlier, the same government office had warned Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City after he said on TV he would kill smugglers and other criminals in his city, adding he would do it at the pain of being imprisoned, for the sake of the safety of people in his city.