Arrests and shame campaigns to worsen pandemic —Karapatan

Human rights watchdog Karapatan raised alarm that jailing quarantine violators and shaming individuals infected with COVID-19 “would only worsen the impact of the pandemic even further” as the group assailed President Rodrigo Duterte’s orders for the Philippine National Police (PNP) to arrest individuals who violate quarantine protocols to “give [them] a lesson for all time” following Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Martin Diño’s suggestion for a “shame campaign” for COVID-19 patients.

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay warned that “the continued use of militarist and punitive policing tactics through warrantless arrests and the alarmingly dangerous suggestions of DILG officials for police house-to-house searches and ‘shame campaigns’ would only further stigmatize patients while mass arrests disproportionately affect the poor and would only facilitate the spread of the highly contagious disease through the country’s cramped and congested detention cells and prisons — all while unleashing an epidemic of human rights abuses and violations at the hands of the police, the military, and other State forces.”

From March 17 to July 19, the PNP has arrested thousands of individuals for quarantine violations as 3,059 remain in jail, where the COVID-19 pandemic has already infected hundreds. Palabay asserted that “mass arrests don’t address the glaring gaps of government incompetence: the lack of the needed public health measures such as mass testing and aggressive contact tracing to isolate patients, the inaccessibility of basic social services and public utilities such as housing and clean water, the slow distribution of government aid for families affected by the loss of jobs and worsening poverty and mass hunger amid the lockdowns, while the regime blatantly allows its allies to violate quarantine protocols, with no less than the president letting them off the hook.”

“Peddling the pasaway narrative —while coddling its pasaway allies who flout quarantine measures — only underscores the government’s hypocrisy. It also highlights the fact that punitive policies to supposedly combat the COVID-19 pandemic are not really meant to curb its spread but rather, to pass the blame of the government’s criminal negligence to the public and to justify the militarization of communities. If we have to shame anyone here, it’s the government’s own pasaway allies like Debold Sinas, Koko Pimentel, Harry Roque, Mocha Uson, even the pasaway and inutile president himself who still refuses to heed the people’s calls and legitimate demands,” the Karapatan officer continued.

Karapatan is set to join the nationwide street, online and local protest actions on Monday, July 27, in time for Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address together with various groups and individuals. “The street protests and local actions will be conducted observing necessary health protocols. We are dissuading the PNP of any action that will disrupt these peaceful protests and violate civil liberties. We are calling on all freedom-loving Filipinos to take part in the various protest actions on Monday,” Palabay stated. 

“The DILG’s own circus of clowns are only further exposing how their own militarist leadership under Eduardo Año views human rights as disposable in the name of railroading fascistic policies. We call on all local government units to assert the necessity of upholding people’s rights and welfare by ensuring the public’s access to medical services and other basic social services. Only then can we comprehensively combat the pandemic,” she ended.