Quarantine not excuse to violate human rights – De Lima


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Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged authorities, notably the military, police and barangay enforcers implementing local curfews and lockdowns, to respect the rights of workers and residents as they stem the spread of coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19).

De Lima made the call following news reports that arrests were made on citizens – including street dwellers, homeless, and minors, who have purportedly violated curfew periods imposed by the respective local government units (LGUs).

“I have this to say to officials who claim that human rights and writ of habeas corpus can now be dispensed with due to health emergency: Respect human rights!” she said in her Dispatch from Crame No. 745.

“Maging ang WHO (World Health Organization) iyan ang paalala. Please lang, hindi ito panahon para lalong sikilin ang mamamayan,” she added.

Last March 21, Interior Undersecretary Martin Diño asserted that human rights and the writ of habeas corpus are deemed to be effectively suspended during national crisis or emergency as they are supposedly inferior to the safety of citizens.

Diño’s comments, however, drew flaks from other government agencies and private entities, notably the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), National Union of People’s Lawyers and human rights group Karapatan.

De Lima, a former CHR chairperson and justice secretary, reminded authorities that arresting citizens and detaining them in cramped jail cells or detention facilities may do more harm than good in stopping the rise of COVID-19 infections in the country.

“Ang kalaban ay virus, hindi mga Pilipino. Bakit sila aarestuhin na parang kriminal dahil sa curfew? Kung nahuli, pauwiin na lang, balaan at paliwanagan maigi. Kung ikukulong, ‘di lalong nagkahawa-hawa sa kulungan,” she said.

To curb the spread of COVID 19, the Duterte administration has placed Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon under a month-long lockdown to slow the spread of the new disease that has so far killed 33 people and infected 501 others in the country.

Aside from arrests made to citizens who allegedly violated rules imposed by the lockdown or referred to by the government as enhanced community quarantine, human rights activists also questioned the 24-hour curfew imposed by some LGUs.

The lady Senator from Bicol also noted that Mr. Duterte’s allies have called to respect the “humanity” of Chinese nationals following calls to close territorial borders to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus into the country.

She also reminded the public officials that the lockdown is not similar to a martial law, which can only be enacted through specific conditions stipulated in the present 1987 Constitution.

“Noong nanawagan na isara na ang mga paliparan para hindi kumalat ang virus, lalo sa mga flights mula China, binalewala lang. Ngayong kumalat na, bakit naman mga Pilipino na ang gustong alisan ng karapatang pantao at tratuhing criminal?”, she said.

We are not under siege by a foreign military, or under rebellion. We are in a state of health emergency. Kaya please, huwag tratuhing kriminal ang mamamayan!” she added. (30)

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