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CHR urges adherence to human rights amid threats of arrest during Metro Manila quarantine

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CHR urges adherence to human rights amid threats of arrest during Metro Manila quarantine
In this handout photo, a team conducts a disinfection operation in Taguig City.
Handout photo, Taguig City

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Sunday stressed that arrests made during the recently-declared community quarantine due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) must be in line with the citizenry's rights as enshrined in the nation's charter. 

According to the commission, while the administration's position on restricting movement is indeed in the interest of public health and safety, this did not suspend all other rights protected by the Constitution. 

The CHR also urged the public to "comply reasonably with the quarantine given the present circumstances."

On Thursday night, President Rodrigo Duterte declared a community quarantine over Metro Manila and raised Code Red Sub Level 2 in addressing the worsening threat of the virus, which has claimed 11 lives so far and afflicted a total of 140.

The president that night that the police and the military could be deployed to maintain peace and order and that they could jail anyone not following the quarantine. 

"I do not want anybody to interfere in your enjoyment. Ayaw ko na masita kayo ng police at military. It could be messy. Itong mga police at military, they have their orders to enforce," he said. 

But the Department of Justice told Philstar.com earlier that warrantless arrest can be effected if an individual assaults, slanders, or bribes a law enforcement officer.

READ: Arrests during community quarantine? DOJ says only for assault, bribery, slander

Philippine jurisprudence also provides that searching a vehicle and subjecting its occupants to a body, particularly without probable cause, can constitute unreasonable search. 

In a series of tweets, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno also pointed out that the quarantine did not give police officers authority to arrest violators. 

"CHR reminds the government, particularly our law enforcers, that even warrantless arrests are bound by legal standards and could only be carried out if: a person is actually committing or attempting to commit an offence (‘in flagrante delicto’ rule); when a person has just committed or, based on probably cause, has personal knowledge of the facts or circumstance on the person to be arrested (‘hot pursuit’ rule); or when a person escaped from a penal establishment," the statement read.

"We note that the violation of lockdown is not part of the prohibited acts under Republic Act No. 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act," said the CHR. 

As of this writing, there are some 156,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases globally. — Franco Luna

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
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