CHR appeals to DOTr not to ban older persons, pregnant women from LRT/MRT during GCQ

Published May 8, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

While the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) understands the moral behind the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) decision to prohibit senior citizens and pregnant women from riding the LRT and MRT when the proposed general community quarantine takes into effect, it is asking transportation heads to reconsider.

The General Community Quarantine (GCQ) protocols require older persons -those aged 60 years and above – “to remain in their residences at all times, except when indispensable under the circumstances for obtaining essential goods and services or for work in permitted industries and offices.”

In order to support this protocol, government transport regulators have decided to ban older persons and pregnant women from riding the MRT and LRT when the National Capital Region (NCR) starts implementing the GCQ scheme.

CHR Commissioner Karen S. Gomez-Dumpit, Focal Commissioner on the Rights of Older Persons and Women, urged the DOTr to reconsider the new protocol and instead implement measures that would make commuting safe for seniors and pregnant women.

“Banning older people and pregnant women in these major transportation options, at any time, and especially in the middle of a health crisis, potentially restricts their ability to access essential goods and services or to go to work. This is permitted by the GCQ protocols,” she said.

“Apart from its inconsistency with the GCQ protocol allowing older people to go out for work and to obtain essential goods and services, it also potentially violates their rights to health and to work,” added Gomez-Dumpit.

She said that the MRT and LRT are major transportation options for the commuting public in Metro Manila. Even though the DOTr only seeks to protect those individuals who are highly vulnerable to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) disease, Gomez-Dumpit said that the marginalized sectors of society have particular needs.

Should seniors and pregnant women be banned from taking the MRT and LRT to get to their workplaces, go to the grocery, or travel to health facilities, Gomez-Dumpit said they will simply rely on other modes of public transportation.

This will still expose them to the commuting crowd and negate the purpose of the ban. “The ban only limits their options,” she said.

The CHR likewise warned the government that this new policy might even result in individual acts of discrimination in the future. Gomez-Dumpit said that the policy sends the wrong message that it is okay to restrict older people and pregnant women from accessing public transportation.

“There is no telling how this could later result in individually-imposed restrictions, such as by tricycle, jeepney, and bus operators and drivers,” she said.

Instead of restricting them completely, the CHR suggested that the LRT and MRT management designate additional separate train cars for older persons and pregnant women. The CHR also recommended the strict implementation of priority lanes to provide relief for seniors and pregnant women to lessen their waiting time.

“We urge the Department of Transportation to focus on these proactive measures and consult the sectors involved. We need clear protocols and guidelines, and not a total ban which may prove to be discriminatory,” said Gomez-Dumpit.