Be mindful of your rights, vigilant vs abuses amid Luzon-wide quarantine – CHR
MANILA, Philippines — Be mindful of your rights and exercise vigilance against possible abuses.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) issued this reminder to the public as the entire Luzon was placed under an enhanced community quarantine amid the spike of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in the country.
Under the month-long containment, most office work and mass public transportation on Luzon Island, which includes the capital, Manila, have been suspended.
This measure also means the implementation of a strict home quarantine will be implemented in all households; regulation of the provision for food and essential services; and a heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce the quarantine.
“We at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) acknowledge the difficulties of combatting a pandemic that continues to affect, not only the Philippines, but also other nations around the world,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement on Sunday.
“At the same time, we note that, when the government placed the entire country under a state of national emergency, the President made it clear that it is not the same as martial law,” she added.
De Guia said this pronouncement of the President indicated that the declaration of an enhanced community quarantine was “a public health measure” which is “centered on upholding the people’s right to health and as a means to save lives by reducing transmission of the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) among Filipinos.”
The CHR noted that the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) supported this principle with Memorandum Circular No. 2020-062 and “further directed local government units to ensure that there will be no human rights violations in communities as we combat COVID-19.”
It can be recalled that in an interview on dzBB over the weekend, Interior Undersecretary Martin Diño claimed that human rights and the writ of habeas corpus are suspended with the declaration of a state of emergency.
“Wala na hong karapatan. Tandaan n’yo, state of emergency ngayon,” he said asked about instances of possible human rights violations that may arise during arrests of individuals caught violating the curfew set by the government under the imposition of the month-long quarantine.
“Ang karapatang pantao ay nawawala pagdating ng state of emergency, ang point and purpose natin ay kaligatasan ng sambayanang Pilipino,” he added.
(There are no more rights. Remember, human rights are suspended during a state of emergency, the point and purpose is to ensure the welfare of the Filipino public).
“Kaya ho ngayon, pwede n’yo na i-withdraw ‘yong calamity fund dahil mayroon state of emergency….Pagka ho meron tayong state of emergency yung writ of habeas corpus ay mawawala na po yan,” he went on.
(That’s why now, we can withdraw the calamity fund because of the state of emergency…If we have a state of emergency, the writ of habeas corpus is suspended).
While the CHR did not directly mentioned Diño’s remarks, it said “it concerns us when there are statements that calls for the suspension of human rights in the context of a national emergency.”
“There may be acceptable restrictions—the freedom of movement, for example, can be limited in support of social distancing to flatten the curve of infection,” she added.
She, however, stressed that “restrictions must also follow human rights standards.”
“Such that they should be lawful, necessary, proportionate, and should not be used to target specific groups, minorities, or individuals.”
Human rights at the center
The CHR, De Guia said, reiterates its call to put human rights at the center of government efforts in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Hence, in implementing policies and actions in support of the enhanced community quarantine, government officials must always be conscious of not violating any rights,” she said.
“The protection of our human rights is very reason why we fight against COVID-19,” she added.
The CHR also reminded the government to to look out for the welfare of the most vulnerable and marginalized, including the elderly, the homeless, persons with disabilities, and the poorest of the poor.
De Guia said there should also be appropriate support for those at the frontline of the pandemic, who she said “equally need all the support from government for them to carry our their duties, as well as to protect themselves from getting infected.”
“No one should be left behind,” she said.
“We then urge the public to support measures that would help us address this pandemic, but always mindful of your rights and vigilant against possible abuses,” she added.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines soared to 462 after 82 new cases were confirmed on Sunday.
Of the number, 33 patients have died and 18 recovered.
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