CHR reminds gov't to respect human rights during MECQ

As Metro Manila and several other areas in the country transitioned back to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) Tuesday, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) reminded the government to respect basic human rights even as it tries to deal with the continued
onslaught of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Commission on Human Rights (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

The CHR issued the reminder noting several reports of violators being meted harsh and inhumane punishment by authorities since the community quarantine was first implemented on March 17.

While the CHR recognizes the value of imposing strict health guidelines and protocols at this time, CHR Spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia stressed it is also important for authorities to respect each and every individual's rights.

"We must treat the pandemic as a public health crisis which considers the human rights dimensions of the situation, rather than approaching
our present circumstances from a peace and order lens," she said. "Such reminders include government officials and representatives being
circumspect in both their words and deeds."

She added Republic Act No. 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, mandates local officials to commit "to the democratic way of life and values, as well as the duty to uphold the Constitution, which puts premium on social justice and human rights, at all times."

Given the plight of the people because of the health crisis and economic downturn, de Guia said the government and its officials should be more compassionate towards their constituents - particularly the vulnerable, disadvantaged, and marginalized.

"This is not to say that violations must not be punished," she continued. "But should actions merit punishment, they should be carried out in full accordance with the law. As such, we recognize the reminder of the Department of the Interior and Local Government for equally stressing this important point, especially for our law enforcers on the ground."

On Tuesday, Quezon City Task Force Disiplina Head Rannie Ludovica received flak for posting on his personal Facebook page that he would "shoot to kill" quarantine violators during the MECQ.

He eventually took the post down, explaining he only posted it out of frustration.

But de Guia said government officials must not resort to threats noting how some people "go out despite the hazards of the pandemic as a matter of daily survival."

The CHR will continue to investigate alleged violations of human rights committed during the pandemic, as well as guide the government towards a more humane and compassionate approach in defeating the COVID-19 crisis.