Gov’t more into rights violations than solving COVID-19 crisis, group says
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration appears to be more interested in committing human rights violations rather than solving the medical and economic problems brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, a lawyers’ group said on Wednesday.
The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said that it had been 36 days since the government placed an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) over Luzon and other areas, but economic relief, mass testing, and protection of frontliners had not been fully addressed.
“The more than 30-days lockdown has demonstrated just how bound and determined this administration, not in ‘flattening the curve’ of COVID-19 cases, but at committing human rights violations with impunity along the way,” NUPL said in a statement.
“It is hell-bent on ‘flattening’ and dismissing criticisms on the glaring ‘double standards’ in the implementation of its own lockdown policies, the real talk of growling stomachs, and the sound proposals of experts to cushion the economic impact of a dominantly militarist approach to the crisis,” they added.
According to the NUPL, the administration also seemed to be bent on blaming poor people for violating the quarantine travel restrictions to justify a possible martial law-like imposition of the rules.
Recently, several events have caught the attention of human rights organizations — from inhumane penalties for curfew violators, to discrimination against persons with disabilities, to the release of personal details of COVID-19 patients and frontliners.
The groups have urged the administration to be more careful in addressing these issues.
Last April 19, police officers in Norzagaray, Bulacan were slammed for arresting activists, including former Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, who were on their way to provide relief assistance for farmers.
The government claimed, however, that they were violating quarantine regulations, and were distributing propaganda materials.
After this, a scriptwriter in Cebu was arrested for supposedly propagating lies about COVID-19 incidents in Sitio Zapatera.
Then, just this Tuesday, a former soldier who appeared to be suffering from mental illness was shot dead by a police officer, after the former appeared to be drawing a firearm. Onlookers claimed that the ex-Army officer was not carrying any gun, but the police said that he had a .38-caliber revolver with him.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros urged the Commission on Human Rights and the Philippine National Police to probe the incident.
“We will always be reminded of how the administration’s mouthpieces flaunt its disregard of basic human rights by mass warrantless arrests for allegedly violating lockdown policies and misinforming the public that human rights are no longer honored amid the pandemic,” the NUPL said.
“While threats of a martial law-like crackdown are certainly legally untenable and open to constitutional challenge and debate, this is something that should never be taken lightly as the administration’s henchmen in uniform have already continued to cause human rights violations, silence critics or send them behind bars through non-use, misuse and abuse of the legal system,” it added.
As of now, the administration has not decided whether the Luzon ECQ — which started on March 17 — will be extended past its April 30 expiration.
As of this writing, the Department of Health has recorded 6,710 patients infected with the coronavirus, of whom 446 have died and 693 have recovered.
Worldwide, over 2.57 million individuals have been infected, while 177,256 have died from the disease and 680,330 have recovered from it.
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