CHR: Humanitarian approach needed to ensure peace and order

By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) believes that a "humanitarian approach" is needed to ensure the country's peace and order situation amidst the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

CHR Spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said that President Duterte and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Archie Gamboa recently made remarks to implement Martial law-style enforcement of quarantine rules. However, the Office of the President later clarified that it was just a verbal warning and not a formal declaration.

While the Commission understands that these kinds of remarks are intended to deter violators of the quarantine and ensure cooperation among the public, de Guia said that the best way to achieve peace and order is through a "humanitarian approach."

"Proper enforcement and public cooperation are indeed expedient," she said. "For a thorough implementation, we reiterate the need for clear-cut guidelines for law enforcers on the ground that will provide scenarios, do's and don'ts, and commensurate penalties. This will also serve as a safeguard against abuse of authority, guarantee respect for rights, and prevent undue panic."

It might be more "convenient" for the government to resort to sweeping measures to implement the enhanced community quarantine, but the CHR said that they still need to consider all factors and make sure that no human dignity is trampled upon.

"Our right to health can only be fully protected through the continuing exercise of the wide array of other rights, such as right to information, food, free speech, and economic security. Hence, we continue to call for holistic approach that will ensure public health while upholding human rights and dignity," she explained.

De Guia added that quarantine rules are still bound by legal standards. Any warrantless arrest should be within legal ambit, and any movement made by the government must be motivated by public health reasons.

"Needless to say, fundamental rights remain even as some necessary measures need to be taken," she stressed.