The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Thursday stressed that the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to have people arrested for not wearing face masks properly may be “prone to excessive discretion and abuse.”
According to CHR spokesperson Atty. Jaqueline de Guia, disciplinary measures against violators should be “reasonable and humane.”
“In the absence of clear guidelines, we are concerned that such directive may be prone to excessive discretion and abuse,” said De Guia in a statement.
De Guia also argued that detention may not be the best action in preventing the spread of COVID-19
“Given the overcrowded conditions of jails and other detention facilities in the Philippines, detention may not be sound in preventing the further spread of COVID-19 in communities,” she said.
This came after President Rodrigo Duterte warned in a pre-recorded briefing on Wednesday that anyone caught wearing a mask improperly will be detained and investigated.
A number of human rights violations have already been committed over the enforcement of health protocols against COVID-19.
Among these was the case of Darren Peñaredondo, who was nabbed by authorities in Brgy. Tejero, Cavite on April 1 after he was seen buying drinking water past curfew.
After being arrested, he was ordered to do pumping exercises as punishment for violating curfew protocols. Hours later, he experienced seizures, lost consciousness, had a stroke, and died.
Another incident involved Ernanie Jimenez who died on April 9 after also being arrested and beaten up by barangay tanods (watchmen) also for curfew violation.
According to De Guia, a “human rights-based approach” in addressing the pandemic requires a “healthy and careful balance of protecting rights based on standards.”
“In the end, it is through intensive education and information campaigns, not fear, that would best result in better compliance with healthy and safety protocols during the pandemic,” said De Guia.
“We may be in quarantine due to the pandemic, but rights should not be on lockdown,” she added.