The United Nations (UN) cited the Philippines as among the countries that registered incidents of police brutality during its corona virus lockdown.
In a news item on High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s statement issued Monday, April 27, the UN said, “From South Africa to the Philippines and from Hungary to Jordan, Ms. Bachelet’s Office, (OHCHR), high-lighted allegations of abuse that appeared to transgress key basic freedoms.”
“Of ‘many dozens’ of countries where new COVID-related abuses have emerged, the OHCHR official went on to describe how the Philippines’ “highly militarised response” to the pandemic had led to the arrest of 120,000 people for violating the curfew,” it added.
“Emergency powers should not be a weapon governments can wield to quash dissent, control the population, and even perpetuate their time in power,” Bachelet warned. “They should be used to cope effectively with the pandemic – nothing more, nothing less,” Bachelet said in her statement.
The High Commissioner’s statement came as a police officer assaulted a resident of a posh gated subdivision in Makati City while retired Philippine Army Corporal Winston Ragos, killed by the police in Quezon City last week, was being laid to rest at the nearby Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Since President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a Luzon-wide lockdown last March 15, thousands of so-called lockdown violators have been arrested with many ordered to stand under the heat of the sun as punishment.
Other forms of punishment include being hauled in pig pens, forced gardening, severe physical exercises, public-shaming and being locked up in already overcrowded jails, violating the government’s own physical-distancing orders.
The police and the government have defended the police actions, including those of local government units that have reportedly committed human rights violations in implementing the lockdown.
In one of his first press conferences after reinstatement as presidential spokesperson, Harry Roque said the alleged lockdown violators should be ashamed of themselves for making the Philippines as having the worst COVID record in Southeast Asia.
In her statement, Bachelet however said: “Shooting, detaining, or abusing someone for breaking a curfew because they are desperately searching for food is clearly an unacceptable and unlawful response. So is making it difficult or dangerous for a woman to get to hospital to give birth. In some cases, people are dying because of the inappropriate application of measures that have been supposedly put in place to save them.”
Respect for people’s rights covered their inherent freedoms “across the spectrum, including economic, social, and cultural rights, and civil and political rights”, Bachelet explained, adding that protecting these was “fundamental to the success of the public health response and recovery from the pandemic.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)