CHR cautions gov't in exercising add'l powers to address COVID-19 crisis


Posted at Mar 24 2020 07:56 PM | Updated as of Mar 24 2020 07:57 PM

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte holds a meeting with the officials of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on March 19, 2020. Ace Morandante, Presidential Photo

MANILA - The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Tuesday cautioned the government in exercising additional powers granted by Congress to address the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

"We note the eagerness of the government to address this health crisis once and for all by mustering its power and resources. The Commission on Human Rights, however, reminds the government that it must do so with the proper guidance of the law and the principles of human rights," Jacqueline Ann de Guia, spokesperson of the CHR, said in statement.

Conferring such exercise of authority to the President shall only be for a limited period, the agency said, citing Article 6, Section 23 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

"...In emergencies, there must be a certain amount of faith granted to the President, but the power should not be absolute," said De Guia, warning that the latter may be vulnerable to abuse.

The CHR acknowledges that health crisis needs to be responded with urgency, but it should not be used to compromise principles and rights enshrined in the Constitution.

"We join the country in hoping for a solution that will help us heal and recover from the damage of the virus. But, as we move forward, we continue to stress that what is at stake are human rights of the people that should never be compromised, even in critical times," De Guia said.

Congress has passed a bill to grant Duterte special powers to, among others, source funds for necessary financial aid to people affected by the enhanced community quarantine as the country battles the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Lawmakers insisted that the primary purpose of the bill was to give 18 million poor Filipino families with P5,000 to P8,000 aid during the national emergency period.