NGO launches hotline for legal advice, consultation during quarantine

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
NGO launches hotline for legal advice, consultation during quarantine
Photo dated April 4,2020 shows residents spending the night at a make-shift basketball court under a flyover after they were rounded up by members of the Sampaloc police station for violating the public safety hours of 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. of the enhanced community quarantine in Manila on Saturday midnight.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Legal group Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS, Inc.) this weekend launched a crisis hotline to provide accessible legal advice, consultation, and information aid to the public amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through the hotline, the non-government organization's lawyers and paralegals will be made available to answer the public's queries on government protocols, relief operations, social welfare concerns and legal rights education in the context of the enhanced community quarantine.

"For any concerns and questions, you may reach the IDEALS Hotline through 0966 760 9397 or chat our IDEALS Facebook Page," IDEALS said.

IDEALS said that its hotline data analysis showed the most Filipinos are affected particularly by illegal dismissal or suspension by employers, salary and hazard pay issues and lacking support from local governments.

“Everyone should have access to factual and relevant information and practicable advice, so they can have guided decisions during this challenging time,” lawyer Ansheline Bacudio, IDEALS legal coordinator, said.

“Many respondents are distressed over meeting their day-to-day expenses. Without work and pay, daily wage earners in low-income communities have no money to buy food and other necessities, and must rely on government doleouts that may or may not be given to them. This proves that the right to quality life is greatly compromised."

"[T]he government, up to this date, fails to appease the public. While other countries battle the coronavirus, the Duterte administration wages a war that hurts mostly the poor," IDEALS Inc. said in a press statement sent to reporters. 

Mainland Luzon is entering its fourth week under enhanced community quarantine, which has severely restricted movement and has largely left the vulnerable grappling with uncertainty. 

Much has been documented about the treatment of violators of the quarantine, some of whom were made to stay in cages, sit in direct sunlight for hours on end, and even arrested for peaceful protest. 

'Just go with the police'

At a surprise public address late Friday night, the chief executive lashed out at human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, calling him a "lousy lawyer" and accusing him of "giving encouragement for people to violate the law."

Throughout his speech, the president repeatedly hit Diokno—who most recently took on the case of one individual summoned by the National Bureau of Investigation, supposedly for criticizing the government—swearing at him, mocking his failed senate run in 2019 and his teeth.

"Putang ina, I'm angry at you," he said, addressing Diokno. 

At the same address, the chief executive reiterated his order for members of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines to shoot quarantine violators who pose a danger to their lives.

"Walang katapusan 'to. Pag nasa labas ang mga tao, talagang hindi matatapos 'to. Kung gusto niyo, pag lumabas kayo, ikaw. Talagang mamamatay ka. Kapag lumaban ka, o nilagay mo sa delikado ang buhay ng pulis, barilin mo. Patayin mo. Yan ang batas," Duterte warned the public. 

(There will be no end to this. If people keep going outside, this will not end. If you want, if you leave the house...you will really die. If you fight back or if you put the lives of the police in danger, shoot them. Kill them. That is the law.)

READ: Is this martial law? Lawyers' union answers questions on quarantine

"Pag sinabi ng pulis sumama ka, then go. Pag di ka sumama, anong gagawin mo kung pulis ka? Kung ayaw mong sumama, edi okay. Ang batas nagsabi, kung ito nagresist, kailangan ang pulis must overcome. Kung ayaw, kakargahin ka, hihilahin ka."

(If police tell you to go with them, then go. If you do not go with me...what will you do, if you were the police officer in that situation? If you don't want to come, then okay. The law says if they resist arrest, the police must overcome. If you don't want to come, they will carry you, they will drag you.)

IDEALS said that the continued press briefings on the part of the chief executive have not given the public clarity on the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine.

Mainland Luzon is entering its fourth week under enhanced community quarantine, which has severely restricted movement and has largely left the vulnerable grappling with uncertainty. 

Since the initiative began, the group said, they were able to assist some 200 clients mostly consisting of low- to middle-income employees by giving them free legal assistance.

READ: 20 arrested at protest in Quezon City during quarantine

“Human rights must always be upheld and respected at all times. This crisis is not an excuse to violate the rights of the citizens. The government should ensure that even in trying times, the citizens should continue to live with dignity,” Atty. Bacudio insisted.




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