CHR reminds officials: Quarantine meant to save lives, affirm human dignity
Members of the Manila Police District check for identification and proof of residence from motorists passing through the checkpoint along Roxas Boulevard in Manila as part of the implementation of the modified enhanced community quarantine which took effect on Tuesday midnight.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman
CHR reminds officials: Quarantine meant to save lives, affirm human dignity
Franco Luna ( - August 4, 2020 - 7:37pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights reminded government officials to be "circumspect in both their words and deeds" Tuesday and expressed concern over what it said was a growing number of cases of abuse and rights violations at the hands of authorities over the coronavirus-induced quarantine. 

This came after news broke that the head of the Quezon City Task Force Disiplina advocated on his Facebook page a "shoot to kill" approach to quarantine violators and saying in a separate post that violators of the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine's protocols "should be killed." 

RELATED: 'Shoot to kill' QC official also says 'irresponsible' citizens should be 'killed'

One need not look far to find cases of overzealous law enforcement over the past 140 days of community quarantine and it has been common for apprehending officers to break their own operational rules only to be defended by their superiors later on. 

"Several months into the community quarantine, we have seen reports of violators being apprehended by authorities, with others being met with harsh, inhumane punishments...CHR decries statements that devalue human rights and negates the importance of human lives. At this point, when everyone is struggling, we should expect compassion and empathy from the government, especially for the vulnerable, disadvantaged, and marginalized," the statement read.   

"We 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...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," the commission also said. 

Metro Manila, other areas, under lockdown again

With the implementation of MECQ in Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces, the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, the quarantine enforcement body including the military and national police, announced it would be mobilizing its personnel for strict enforcement once more. 

Quarantine checkpoints are also being set up as well by the task force, it said in a statement Monday, the bulk of which they said will be along the borders of municipalities to stop the flow of people crossing boundaries, while only workers or frontliners with quarantine passes will be permitted to cross. 

Medical groups over the weekend slammed, among other things, the militaristic "Duterte-style" lockdowns that constituted the community quarantines implemented by the government's coronavirus task force, which all saw a pronounced emphasis on law enforcement in the time of a pandemic and which they said was "unscientific" and served no functional purpose in fighting a pathogen. 

At his weekly press briefing on Tuesday morning, Police Gen. Archie Gamboa, the chief of the national police, assured the public that the agency would practice maximum tolerance, a promise it has made time and again but one that has not always manifested in practice

"We at the Philippine National Police practice a different kind of discipline, which is higher than the civilian. A reassessment with the health service is needed, perhaps a heart-to-heart talk...we will give the public a strict warning for the first initial days ng MECQ. If the PNP is still adjusting, the people are too. We'll practice maximum tolerance," he said. 

For its part, the CHR reminded public servants: "In the end, putting the nation under a state of a national health emergency, including several health protocols and quarantines, are meant to save lives and affirm the value of human dignity."

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