MANILA - A group of lawyers on Thursday urged authorities to be more understanding of citizens who violate quarantine measures as it condemned government's militaristic approach in containing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic is not only a public health emergency but also a "human rights crisis," according to Josa Deinla, assistant secretary general for legal services of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL).
"Ang tawag ko nga dito, 'lockdown crackdown,' kasi maraming apektado na mga mamamayan, lalo na yung mga maralita na hindi kayang sumunod sa mga patakaran sa social distancing dahil walang sapat na espasyo sa kanilang mga tirahan at sila ay nagugutom kaya napipilitang lumabas at dumiskarte," she told radio DZMM.
(I call this 'lockdown crackdown' because so many are affected, especially the poor who can't follow physical distancing because they don't have enough space in their homes, and they're forced to go out and improvise due to hunger.)
"Apektado rin yung netizens na nagpapahayag ng kanilang saloobin at nagbibigay ng kritisismo sa ating gobyerno sa mabagal at kapos na pagtugon nito sa COVID-9 crisis."
(Netizens who voice out their opinion and criticism against government's slow and inadequate aid are affected.)
As of April 20, authorities have recorded some 136,000 cases of quarantine measures violations, with 31,000 persons arrested, Deinla noted.
"Under the circumstances, dapat ay higit tayong mapang-unawa. Sa halip na ine-enforce natin nang ganitong kahigpit ang protocol tungkol sa lockdown, dapat inuunawa natin kung bakit nagagawa ng mga tao yung ganito diumanong paglabag," she said.
(Under the circumstances, authorities should be more understanding. Instead of strictly enforcing lockdown protocol, they should understand why people are committing these violations.)
"Yung ilang 'di pagkakaroon ng face masks pag lumalabas, sa tingin ho namin, hindi dapat yan i-penalize o i-criminalize. Sa halip, dapat pauuwiin sa bahay o kaya bigyan ng face mask."
(We think some violations of not wearing face masks outside should not be penalized or criminalized. Instead, they should be sent home or given a face mask.)
The group has received complaints about authorities holding citizens under custody over a long period of time because they do not know what charges to file against them, Deinla said.
"Ang posisyon namin: sa simpleng paglabag sa quarantine, hangga't di nakasaad sa malinaw na ordinansa sa isang local government unit, wala pong violation," she said.
(Our position is: in a simple violation of quarantine, if it's not clearly stated in a local ordinance, there's no violation.)
"Para maging valid ang pagpapatupad nito (quarantine measures), dapat po published, dapat po alam ng mga nasasakupan. Sabihan po natin sila kung ano dapat ang mga susunding alituntunin tuwing lalabas sila ng kanilang mga tahanan."
(For quarantine measures to be valid, these should be published, should be known by residents. Let's inform them of what rules they should follow every time they leave their homes.)
The public may avail of legal assistance through NUPL's Facebook page, email at [email protected], and hotline at 09178870776, according to Deinla.