Gov’t response to COVID-19 similar to war against illegal drugs — CHR

Published July 2, 2021, 4:20 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki


The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has observed that the government has framed its response against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to a “war against the virus” which has “lamentably” resulted in blatant red-tagging, arrests, and killings.

It pointed out that there has been a number of quarantine violators who have died or were subjected to torture due to punishments by security and law enforcement officials.

“Excessive punishments and fines which are punitive in nature and disproportionate with the violations represent an overreach of the enforcement of quarantine rules and regulations,” it said.

Its observation was contained in its statement to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s report on State response to pandemics.

The CHR said the government’s “war against the virus” is a “militaristic and securitization approach that penalized and criminalized quarantine violators.”

Just like its campaign against illegal drugs, the government’s approach against COVID-19 has caused “more blatant red-tagging, arrests, and killings of human rights defenders and community workers in the guise and cover of the implementation of the Anti-Terror Act.”

It said its observation was based on its monitoring as well as the reports it has received and investigated regarding quarantine violators.

It echoed the statement made by Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra, who recommended that local government units (LGUs) impose community service on quarantine violators instead of subjecting them to harsh physical exercises or fines because these only add to the hardships already faced by the poor and vulnerable sectors.

But just days after Guevarra’s suggestion, President Duterte recommended that quarantine violators – or those who do not wear or those who improperly wear masks – be arrested and detained, it noted.

It was even the Department of Justice (DOJ) that drafted the guidelines primarily using local ordinances as bases for arresting and detaining violators.