MANILA — A police officer in the Philippines was killed this week after a fighting rooster slashed him during a raid on an illegal cockfighting den to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The officer, Lt. Christian Bolok, 38, was part of a team that descended on an arena in the province of Northern Samar on Monday, after it was suspecting of violating lockdown rules against mass gatherings.
“There was a commotion, the spectators scampered away, and when the dust cleared, Officer Bolok tried to pick up one of the birds, but he didn’t notice that it still had bladed spurs on,” the provincial police chief, Col. Arnel Apud, said in an interview.
Fighting roosters typically have a razor-sharp steel blade called a gaff attached to their legs, and the bird Lieutenant Bolok grabbed slashed him with one.
“He was wounded in his femoral artery on the left leg and lost a lot of blood,” Colonel Apud continued. “Within minutes, he died. It was a freak accident.”
The officer was a 13-year veteran of the force and a father of three.
As countries enter second and third waves of the virus, the authorities have struggled to enforce lockdown rules. In New York, more than 80 people attended a birthday party in Long Island in September, violating the 50-person limit for crowds, leading to the infection of 37 people and forcing over 270 others into quarantine, officials said. In Australia, 16 people broke coronavirus restrictions in July by attending a surprise birthday event in a suburb of Melbourne, leading to hefty fines.
In the Philippines, which has confirmed 375,180 cases of the virus and 7,114 deaths, security forces help maintain lockdown orders.
Cockfighting, an ancient sport, became wildly popular in the Philippines when the Spanish ruled the islands for more than three centuries before ceding them to the United States in 1898.
While the activity has been legalized in many areas and matches are sometimes sanctioned and televised, the government banned it and other such events in March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among large crowds.
Investigators are still trying to find the owner of the rooster that killed Lieutenant Bolok. The bird was seized by the authorities and was being held at a police station as evidence.
Three spectators were arrested and several other birds confiscated during the raid. Colonel Apud said the suspects had been charged with illegal gambling and could be freed soon.
“We are still in the process of investigating,” he said. “But surely somebody must be charged with homicide at least for the death of our officer.” He added, “It was ironic that a good man who had seen a lot of action against criminality would be killed by a fighting cock.”
A spokesman for the national police, Col. Ysmael Yu, said that rooting out the blood sport in illegal arenas could be difficult, especially in far-flung areas.
“Are there people still conducting this despite the ban? The answer is yes, because man by nature is vicious,” Colonel Yu said.
Ashley Fruno, the regional campaigns director for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said the officer’s death should be a “wake-up call,” for the Philippine authorities as well as the public, that cockfighting is brutal.
“The world has evolved, and times are changing rapidly,” she added. “It’s time for the Philippines to relegate cruel cockfighting to the history books.”