HRW: Philippines must enforce quarantine without 'cruel, inhuman' treatment

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
HRW: Philippines must enforce quarantine without 'cruel, inhuman' treatment
Policemen wearing facemasks check motorists at a checkpoint after the government imposed an enhanced quarantine as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Manila on March 25, 2020.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — As the Philippines imposes drastic measures to arrest the spread of the new coronavirus, authorities should respect the basic rights of people detained for violating quarantine procedures.

Watchdog Human Rights Watch stressed this Thursday after there were reports of curfew violators being locked up in a dog cage and being forced to sit under the intense heat of the midday sun.

Earlier Thursday, ABS-CBN News posted a video of a police officer hitting a resident of Muslim Town in Manila's Quiapo district with a stick for trying to go out. The man presented a quarantine pass but the officer insisted people cannot leave their homes except at certain times of the day.

The police officer is also heard on video saying people who leave their homes would be shot.

An ABS-CBN News report on the incident quotes Police Brig. Gen. Rolando Miranda, director of the Manila Police District, as saying he would have it investigated.

"They should not lose their tempers when implementing the law," he said in Filipino.

READ: LGUs should not impose 'window hours' for buying food, supplies — DILG 

In a statement on quarantine enforcement in general, Phil Robertson, HRW deputy Asia director, said: “Police and local officials should respect the rights of those they arrest for violating curfew and other public health regulations, which can be done while still allowing the Philippine government to take appropriate measures to combat COVID-19.”

Since March 17, Luzon has been placed under enhanced community quarantine to restrict movement across the main island. Half of the country’s population were ordered to stay home and some municipalities and cities enforced curfews.

The entire country is also currently under a State of Public Health Emergency and a State of National Emergency.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said that violators of the lockdown may be charged with resistance and disobedience to a person in authority or the agents of such person. A charge of violating the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act may also be filed.

“While the Philippine government needs to protect the health and welfare of the people, any interventions must be in line with international human rights standard, including the prohibition against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of people in custody,” Robertson said.

Any reports of abuses against detainees should be immediately investigated and the authorities responsible should be held accountable, the HRW official said. 

UN human rights experts earlier said that emergency responses to the coronavirus pandemic must be “proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory.”

“We encourage states to remain steadfast in maintaining a human rights-based approach to regulating this pandemic in order to facilitate the emergence of healthy societies with the rule of law and human rights protections,” the UN experts said.

The new coronavirus has infected 636 people in the Philippines, 38 of whom died as of Wednesday afternoon. An additional 657 individuals are considered patients under investigation.

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