Rights group raises alarm over shame campaign, arrest of quarantine violators

A human rights group on Wednesday expressed concern shaming and detention of quarantine violators would only worsen the ill-effects of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay stressed the government’s “militarist and punitive” response against COVID-19 "disproportionately affects the poor and would only facilitate the spread of the highly contagious disease through the country’s cramped and congested detention cells and prisons."

The group noted the gaps in the government’s COVID-19 response, including lack of the needed public health measures such as mass testing, slow distribution of aid, and inaccessibility of social services, among others, can’t be covered up with mass arrests.

President Duterte has ordered a stricter police enforcement of health protocols such as mask-wearing and physical distancing during quarantine.

Duterte said mayors have “to do more” and police should arrest those who break quarantine rules insisting possible COVID-19 transmission a “serious crime.” 

Prior to this, Interior Undersecretary Martin Dino suggested a “shame campaign” against individuals ignoring quarantine protocols.

Karapatan criticized the official’s proposal, saying it would only “stigmatize” the individuals involved.

“It also highlights the fact that punitive policies to supposedly combat the COVID-19 pandemic are not really meant to curb its spread but rather to pass the blame of the government’s criminal negligence to the public and justify the militarization of communities,” Palabay said.

Police data from March 17 to July 19, showed 3,059 quarantine violators have been jailed.