CHR hits Gwen
Lorraine L. Ecarma (The Freeman) - May 23, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has manifested its alarm over Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia’s act of shaming a netizen publicly online for a comment on the province’s transition to general community quarantine from enhanced community quarantine.

"We seek to remind public officials—elective or appointive—that they are bound by high standards of ethics in public service. They must perform their duties with utmost responsibility, integrity, and respect and shall be accountable to the people they are serving," reads a statement released by CHR spokesperson, Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia, yesterday.

The commission said Garcia’s reaction to the netizen’s comment is a "cause of concern,” especially that the governor disclosed the netizen's personal information.

Last May 18, Garcia called out a netizen who commented on a Facebook post of Sugbo News, the provincial government’s information platform.

In a series of comments, the netizen, a resident of the province, expressed frustration that the transition to GCQ also meant the province’s disqualification from the second tranche of the national government’s Social Amelioration Program.

The netizen also commented that Cebu leaders – who she did not name – remain corrupt amid widespread hunger in the island.

During her livestream, an agitated Garcia questioned the allegations of corruption and proceeded to present some personal details of the netizen, including current address, number of children, and relationship history.

CHR said Garcia could have addressed the comment through more "appropriate and professional channels."

CHR also pointed out that the netizen was consequently mocked, bullied, and harassment by other internet users.

"Instead of taking the feedback negatively, similar opportunities should be a point of reflection for the government on their performance so they may study if they are delivering information and services at the right place, to the right people, and at the right time," CHR said.

"People look at the government to take care of their welfare, not degrade them, especially on legitimate matters, such as livelihood and survival," CHR said further.

Nothing that the information Garcia revealed on livestream came from Barangay Health Workers who reportedly channeled the information to Capitol voluntarily, CHR said residents’ right to privacy is a right protected by the Constitution.

CHR also cited the Data Privacy Act, which prohibits the disclosure of "any sensitive personal and privileged information" without consent.

"If there are legitimate violations committed, we have laws in place to hold persons accountable. Shaming should never be leveraged as the standard of social control and be the norm in upholding public order. We at CHR continues to call for the respect of the rights of all, the rule of law, and due process," CHR said.

Comment

In a message to The Freeman yesterday afternoon, Garcia said CHR is entitled to react "so long as they don’t also resort to calling us 'bogo', 'kurakot' and 'nagkiat.'"

The terms enumerated, according to Garcia, are just among the adjectives netizens have hurled against public officials online.

“I wonder if they (CHR) shouldn't be just as ‘alarmed’ about such libelous posts as well?” Garcia said.

While CHR said public officials are expected to be more tolerant to negative criticisms, Garcia said public officials, like other citizens, are also human beings and are protected by the same rights.

"I mean, public official or netizen, we're both human, right? Shouldn't we both be entitled to the same human rights that the Commission on Human Rights has vowed to protect?" she said.

 In the same statement, CHR said “public officials are also expected to have higher threshold for feedback and should respect the constitutionally recognized rights of every Filipino to express grievances and petition for their redress without fear of being persecuted." JMO (FREEMAN)

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