“Human compassion” of the law reserved only for Duterte allies in COVID-19 lockdown

Human rights watchdog Karapatan strongly decried the government’s “double standard” on how penalties are being imposed amid the Luzon-wide “enhanced community quarantine” against the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.  The group’s statement came after the Department of Justice (DOJ) insisted that Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III — who recently tested positive for COVID-19 — will not be investigated nor subjected to a warrantless arrest despite breaching quarantine protocols in accompanying his wife at the Makati Medical Center on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

“The glaring double standard in how penalties are being imposed in this ‘enhanced community quarantine’ cannot be ignored. While the marginalized have faced cruel, inhumane, and unjust penalties and human rights violations for supposed violations of the quarantine measures, Senator Pimentel, who is actually positive for the disease, gets to have an easy pass despite putting hundreds of lives — especially frontline health workers and medical personnel — at fatal risk for his recklessness,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra had previously asserted “non-cooperation of the person or entities identified as having the notifiable disease, or affected by the health event of public concern” under Republic Act No. 11332 as a legal basis for the conduct warrantless of arrests for violators of the “enhanced community quarantine” even without resistance, including being found outside one’s house. Amid the public outcry against Senator Pimentel, Guevarra invoked his earlier statement that the DOJ will supposedly “temper the rigor of the law with human compassion.”

“Where was this ‘human compassion’ when the homeless and the urban poor were subjected to warrantless arrests, inhumane detention in dog cages, or being made to sit under the sun as punishment for simply being outside their homes for the need to earn living or for simply having no home at all? The DOJ has no excuse to not pursue charges against Senator Pimentel for a blatant breach of quarantine measures, especially since he was already tested as a person under investigation and should have been staying at home,” Palabay demanded.

The Karapatan official further slammed the DOJ’s plea of tempering the law with human compassion as “nothing more than a hifalutin iteration of the Duterte regime’s fake ‘tapang at malasakit’ narrative. To the ordinary Filipino, this regime bares its fascist and militarist fangs to the fullest, and this so-called malasakit is reserved for the president’s allies.”

“We assert of the need of a mass-oriented, scientific, comprehensive, and rights-based approach to this public health crisis and its socio-economic impacts on the people. Upholding people’s rights and upholding civil liberties are not mutually exclusive, and authorities must give utmost consideration to the marginalized who don’t have the privilege of following quarantine protocols such as social distancing and home quarantine measures,” Palabay stated.

However, the Karapatan official said that “Senator Pimentel’s actions should not go unpunished. He should be held accountable for he has put many lives in danger — the very lives fighting at the frontlines against the COVID-19 pandemic. The DOJ’s firm refusal to penalize him speaks of the ways justice is blatantly twisted by this government, all in efforts to protect its allies and allow them to violate laws with impunity.”