MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday urged the public to report human rights violations during the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine and reminded local governments to ensure that human dignity and rule of law are respected as they implement coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) containment measures.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that while the Palace gives credit to local governments’ efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, there have been concerns on alleged human rights violations against those who disobeyed rules and health protocols.
“As we are not fully aware of the details of such violations, we will appreciate receipt of detailed information of the same for proper action by the appropriate agencies,” Roque said in a statement.
“Under the current circumstances we are in, the (local government units) enforce the law as reasonably strict as possible for the full protection of our people. While such protection measures spell the difference between life and death, they are implemented well within the rule of law, and are respectful of the human dignity and human rights of everyone,” he added.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which supervises LGUs and the Philippine National Police (PNP), is committed to uphold human rights at all times and will not tolerate any violation during the quarantine period, according to the Palace spokesman.
Roque also called on the public to do their part in preventing the spread of the virus by complying with health protocols.
“In all this, we cannot overstate the need for everyone to observe social distancing, curfew hours and other protocols in these difficult times. As necessary, please stay at home,” he said. “Please do not violate any of the ECQ rules. This entails everyone’s cooperation. We need to fight this pandemic together.”
About 125,000 people have been apprehended for violating quarantine measures, but a majority of them have been directed to return to their homes, according to police officials.
Last week, President Duterte reminded authorities to inject “humanity” when enforcing quarantine protocols and to consider the plight of those who violated protocols because they had to find food for their families.
“So I’d like to remind everybody that whatever we do here, there has to be a humanity in it. It’s not just a question of enforcing the law. You have to take into account the humanity angle,” Duterte said in a public address last Thursday.
The public should also be ready for stricter quarantine measures if the number of violators will continue to increase, the PNP said yesterday.
PNP spokesman Brig Gen. Bernard Banac issued the warning after the number of quarantine and curfew violators had risen to 130,177 as of Saturday.
Of the number, 3,875 were caught since Friday despite talk of possible implementation of strict disciplinary procedures similar to martial law.
“We expect tighter safety and stricter quarantine measures if the number of violators would continue to rise and people would continue to ignore curfew and social distancing rules,” Banac said in a Viber message.
In the same televised address last Thursday, Duterte said he would call in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PNP to enforce quarantine rules to contain COVID-19.
Banac clarified that the PNP would not be sidelined but would implement quarantine guidelines together with the AFP.
“All (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases) guidelines have been jointly implemented by combined AFP-PNP through the Joint Task Force COVID-19 Shield,” he said.
Meanwhile, PNP deputy chief for operations Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar disputed reports that police officers are violating human rights of citizens in the implementation of quarantine guidelines.
Eleazar said they have actually been lenient, noting that 94,272 of the quarantine violators were released after being warned not to repeat the offense.
“Kung tutuusin, napakaluwag ng pulis, pero kailangan po maghigpit talaga tayo (In reality, the police are lenient, but we have to get stricter),” he said in an interview with radio station dzBB.
Eleazar made the statement after Commission on Human Rights (CHR) spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said they have received 103 complaints of human rights violations allegedly being committed by lawmen in the implementation of quarantine.
In an interview also with dzBB, De Guia said the CHR would probe a recent incident in Caloocan City where about 200 quarantine violators were forced by policemen to walk for more than an hour to city hall.
If given a choice, Eleazar said he would prefer walking instead of landing in jail, adding that he completely understood the situation of police officers on the ground who are risking their lives just to maintain peace and order.
The PNP official also lamented that some beneficiaries of the national government’s social amelioration program used their cash assistance to buy liquor and illegal drugs.
“Kayo ba ay natutuwa sa mga … ’yan na mga pasaway (Are you pleased with these people who are stubborn?)” he said.
Eleazar stressed that the rights of individuals are secondary in times of emergencies where lives are at stake.
“Takutan na para tumigil kayo sa inyong kalokohan at mag-cooperate naman po sa ating pamahalaan (It’s time to scare you so you’ll stop with your foolishness and you start cooperating with the government),” he said.