Gov't authorities urged to respect rights in the midst of "enhanced community quarantine"

Human rights alliance Karapatan called on the Duterte government to uphold and respect people’s rights amid the imposition of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine against the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Karapatan said that stringent measures currently being imposed make poor communities of workers, the homeless, the urban and rural poor vulnerable to arrests and detention as well as other rights abuses and violations.

“While we understand the public health emergency to be very serious and stringent measures need to be implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19, we remind the government that protecting the right to life and security should not infringe on other basic human rights and civil liberties. Fundamental rights should be at the crux of all responses to COVID-19. The government should prioritize the people’s right to health and veer away from a fascist approach in addressing this public health crisis,” said Roneo Clamor, Karapatan deputy secretary general.

“We urge the government to refrain from making fascist pronouncements that will only goad State authorities to arrest and detain the vulnerable sectors like the urban poor and homeless, workers who are forced to earn for daily living, while awaiting government response to provide their basic needs like food and other essential supplies in their respective villages. A militaristic and anti-poor response that does not address the social and economic impacts of this enhanced community quarantine will only worsen the crisis we are currently facing,” added Clamor.

On March 12, 2020, on the day President Rodrigo Duterte announced the imposition of a community quarantine in Metro Manila, an urban poor community in the New Era compound in Brgy. 137, Zone 15, Protacio, Pasay City, were forcibly evicted as their homes were illegally demolished without prior notice according to reports from Kadamay – Metro Manila.

“This is unacceptable and infuriating. This is the most difficult time for the urban poor communities, who are bearing the brunt of the health and economic impacts of this quarantine. How can the people stay home and protect themselves from acquiring the disease when their houses are being demolished? Instead of providing an alternative shelter or relocation to the homeless, forced eviction is their response. The perpetrators of this demolition should be investigated and prosecuted,” the Karapatan official averred.

Four days later, according to news reports, a 69-year old street dweller was arrested last Monday, March 16, 2020 after she was found sleeping on a street in Malate, Manila beyond the curfew hours imposed by authorities. Meanwhile, a Facebook post published on Friday, March 20,2020 by Frederick Panisan Ambrocio, barangay captain of Brgy. Gatid, Sta. Cruz, Laguna, showed an image of youth crammed in a dog cage after allegedly violating curfew hours and verbally insulting barangay officials.

“Such inhumane treatment of individuals especially the most marginalized in society not only violated the social distancing measures currently being implemented against the COVID-19 pandemic. These incidents violate basic civil and political rights. Local government officials who abuse their power should be held to account during this public health crisis. We remind local authorities to respect the human rights and due process should be accorded to individuals who may not be able to comply with the guidelines and curfew rules of the enhanced community quarantine,” he added.

Clamor called on the government to protect the people’s right to life and security as well as our right to health by providing the much-needed public health responses to this pandemic such as massive and free testing along with reversing the privatization of health and other neoliberal economic policies to ensure the State’s duty to provide quality public health and social services to all, especially the poor.

“The people’s right to health can only be holistically upheld by coupling quarantine policies with measures protecting job security as well as people’s rights to food, water and sanitation, and housing — free from militarist threats against their lives, security and liberty,” the Karapatan official ended.