Disinformation, vague quarantine directives from nat'l gov't = rights violations on the ground

Human rights group Karapatan raised alarm over statements made by Martin Diño, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) undersecretary for barangay affairs, that individuals can be arrested without warrant during the Luzon-wide “enhanced community quarantine” against the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic supposedly because human rights disappear and the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended when a state of emergency is declared.

“Diño’s assertions are very alarming and dangerous. Not only are they absurd, baseless, and outright false, they are also indicative of the government’s militarist and fascistic mindset in responding to any crisis and this regime’s disdain of human rights in general,” Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor said.

In a phone interview with Isa Umali of Super Radyo DZBB on Saturday, March 21, 2020, Dino dismissed inquiries regarding the arrests and rights of alleged quarantine violators, saying “ang karapatang pantao ay nawawala ‘pag dating ng state of emergency dahil ‘pastate of emergency ang first and foremost natin ay kaligtasan ng sambayanang Pilipino” and that “‘pag ka ho meron tayong state of emergency, ‘yung writ of habeas corpus ay nawawala na po ‘yan.

Clamor averred that “a state of public health emergency only imposes certain and necessary restrictions on civil liberties to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 but such declaration does not in any way remove our basic human rights nor suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. The DILG undersecretary is sowing disinformation with very serious implications on human rights and on how uniformed personnel and authorities, particularly barangay officials, conduct arrests and implement quarantine measures in their communities.”

Citing the circulation of a bogus and unauthorized “window hour” advisory, the Karapatan officer said that “disinformation has emboldened policemen to accost and round up individuals, despite such advisory being disowned by the police and the Inter-Agency Task Force. Disinformation combined with vague confusing directives put people’s rights and security in a position vulnerable to violations from authorities.”

Clamor also detailed reports regarding certain barangays issuing and distributing home quarantine passes containing certifications that an individual must not be a member of any “subversive” organization in the locality in order to hold the pass. A resident of Brgy. Tatala, Binangonan, Rizal reported to Karapatan that the quarantine pass issued by their barangay last Thursday, March 19, 2020, contained a certification that the pass holder “has no derogatory record or a member of any subversive organization in the locality.”

“Along with Diño’s outright false claims on human rights, certain barangay officials are including non-membership in so-called ‘subversive’ organizations as a requisite in providing certificates for quarantine passes. We fear that such vague certifications can be easily abused to harass and threaten activists being tagged as members of these so-called subversive organizations by denying them not only passes but relief provisions from their barangays,” Clamor said.

“We are alarmed that such certifications in quarantine passes are being exploited to conduct profiling and surveillance of activists and their families at the community level. This is a tokhang-style tactic that has been carried over to the government’s fascist whole-of-nation counterinsurgency campaign, where local government units down to the barangay level are mobilized for profiling, with deadly consequences,” he continued.

The Karapatan officer also slammed an ordinance from Muntinlupa City enacted last Friday, March 20, 2020, stating penalties for curfew violators — with the first offense meriting the cancellation of scholarships and other assistance from the local government, and with the last offense providing a penalty of the withholding of relief goods and other assistance until the end of the quarantine period.

“We remind the DILG, barangay officials, and local government units that protecting the rights to life and to security amid this public health crisis does not and should not justify draconian measures that imperil other basic rights and civil liberties, or inhumane penalties and conditions that would allow the denial of relief to any individual,” Clamor asserted.

“The people’s right to health provides that medical goods and services should be available and accessible to everyone without discrimination. The people’s right to health should be upheld now more than ever, and that right can only be realized if the state also upholds and protects other basic rights,” he ended.