Karapatan slams Duterte’s arrest orders for improper wearing of masks

This policy of mass arrests of alleged violators of health and quarantine protocols like improper wearing of face masks is brazenly unscientific and ineffective, aside from a form of disproportionate use of force during a public health crisis that impacts mainly the poor population.

Overcongestion and inhumane conditions in the country’s detention facilities already pose risks to the health of prisoners — and detaining hundreds of alleged violators in these cramped facilities where physical distancing is impossible to observe would only facilitate the rapid spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

The militarist and punitive framework of policing the pandemic in the form of policies resulting in mass arrests and detention of alleged violators runs counter to the purpose of quarantine protocols which is to protect and uphold people’s health. We have seen the arbitrary and often violent enforcement of these policies that have disproportionately targeted the poor and even political dissenters — while affording a double standard to this administration’s allies and lapdogs.

That these pronouncements came from none other than President Rodrigo Duterte himself only shows that this policy of mass arrests under the quarantine is a State policy — and they should be a cause for alarm. These would inevitably translate to more violations of people’s rights and civil liberties, as it had been in the government’s sham and bloody drug war or in its counterinsurgency operations and crackdown on dissent.

The continuing spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the country rests primarily on the Duterte government’s criminal negligence of people’s welfare and its utter stubbornness in refusing to listen to calls to implement scientific, people-centric, and rights-based measures to combat the pandemic. We call on the public to be vigilant and assert their rights in the face of these pronouncements, and to demand accountability from a government more concerned with washing its hands from its obligations and accountability than upholding people’s welfare.