CHR: Pandemic response needs human rights dimension
MANILA, Philippines—The government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic should not be purely a peace and order approach but also take human rights into consideration, according to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR ) on Tuesday (Aug. 4).
The CHR said the government and its officials must be a source of empathy as a lot of people suffer from the disastrous impact of the pandemic and not resort to brute force to enforce health protocols.
The commission, said CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia, “sees the value of imposing health guidelines and protocols to ensure that everyone’s health is protected during this pandemic.”
“We believe that asserting individual rights must also take into account the obligation to protect other people’s rights,” she said.
De Guia said everyone “must treat the pandemic as a public health crisis which considers the human rights dimensions of the situation rather than approaching our present circumstances from a peace and order lens.”
“At this point, when everyone is struggling, we should expect compassion and empathy from the government, especially for the vulnerable, disadvantaged and marginalized,” De Guia said.
CHR clarified, though, that it was not against punishing violators, but such punishments should be within the bounds of the law.
“This is not to say that violations must not be punished. But should actions merit punishment, they should be carried out in full accordance with the law,” De Guia said.
The reminder from the commission came after Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite and Laguna were placed on modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) again due to rising COVID-19 cases.
CHR was not specific on what kind of pandemic response merited its reminder, but a Quezon City official, who was part of the city’s COVID-19 team, is drawing flak for saying there should be a shoot-to-kill order for violators of quarantine restrictions.
Before the return to MECQ, allegations of human rights violations emerged along with the government enforcement of stricter lockdowns, prompting critics to question what they said was a militarist approach to the pandemic.
One case that continues to haunt officials enforcing the lockdown was the killing of a retired Army corporal, who was suffering from war shock, at a quarantine checkpoint by a police officer who claimed he was acting in self-defense. The ex-soldier was unarmed and was digging into his sling bag for his quarantine pass when he was shot.
The CHR urged government officials to also understand why people defy quarantine restrictions as it may be caused by lack of aid from the government, which would force people to leave their homes and look for sources of income.
“Greater efforts to educate and assist communities will also best maximise the community quarantines,” De Guia said.
“Violations may have stemmed from lack of appreciation of policies and understanding of the dangers of the virus,” she added.
The government, the CHR spokesperson said, “must also continuously respond to the socio-economic challenges of the pandemic which equally forces individuals to go out, despite the hazards of the pandemic, as a matter of daily survival.”
The Philippines currently has 112,593 COVID-19 cases after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 6,352 new infections on Tuesday, the biggest single-day jump in the number of cases.
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