Not arrest, detention but ‘reasonable’ penalty on face mask violations — CHR

Published May 6, 2021, 3:59 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

Commission on Human Rights

Do not arrest and detain persons who do not wear face masks in public places as it urged the government to implement “reasonable and humane disciplinary measures” for violators, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said on Thursday, May 6.

The CHR, in a statement, said the order for arrest and detention will give rise to more human rights violations in connection with the health protocols being implemented by the government.

CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said the arrest and detention of persons not wearing face masks should be covered by “clear guidelines” to avoid excessive discretion or abuse.

“In the end, it is through intensive education and information campaigns, not fear, that would best result in better compliance with health and safety protocols during the pandemic,” De Guia stressed.

“A human rights-based approach in addressing the pandemic requires a healthy and careful balance of protecting rights based on standards. We may be in quarantine due to the pandemic, but rights should not be on lockdown,” she pointed out.

At the same time, De Guia said that detaining violators might only exacerbate the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation in the country.

“Given the overcrowded conditions of jails and other detention facilities in the Philippines, detention may not be sound in preventing the further spread of COVID-19 in communities,” she said.

She noted that some local governments have passed ordinances penalizing the act of not wearing face masks in public. But first-time offenders are often reprimanded, fined, or asked to perform community service, she added.