CHR issues caution on arrests amid Luzon lockdown

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 20 2020 09:49 PM

Isagani Delos Santos, 39, a taho vendor, walks past a checkpoint along Marcos highway after selling taho in around Cainta, Rizal on March 18, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Friday gave caution on arrests over violations of guidelines of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon, saying this should be "strictly done" within the bounds of the law. 

In a statement, the agency said it received complaints about arrests of taxi drivers, a homeless senior citizen and minors who reportedly did not comply with the curfew at the onset of the lockdown.

Government enforced a strict home quarantine of more than 50 million people in the main northern island of Luzon on Tuesday midnight in a bid to arrest the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). 

"In the first few days of the quarantine, many of these poor and homeless folks were arrested as many attempted to continue with their livelihood," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement.

She said Filipinos who flout the quarantine should not be automatically meted with arrest as human dignity should not be diminished or compromised.

"Arrests, including warrantless arrests, must be strictly done within the legal standards inscribed in the law," it said.

De Guia stressed that the enhanced community quarantine is a health and safety measure, not a peace and order solution.

"It is never meant as a peace and order solution as emphasized by the President himself when he said that the quarantine is not tantamount to martial law," she said.

She said the poor and homeless bear the brunt of the lockdown measure: the homeless lack proper dwelling while the poor are compelled to go to work to put food on the table, she said.

"CHR recognizes that the government recently instituted programs to address the socio-economic needs of the vulnerable sectors during the quarantine period. But it must be stressed that this urgent matter requires swiftness and due diligence to ensure that no person will be left behind," De Guia added.

Officials earlier said quarantine violators may be arrested.