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Int'l rights group warns vs. rights violations amid enhanced community quarantine

An international human rights organization headquartered in New York on Thursday reminded Philippine law enforcers to respect the rights of persons being arrested for violating enhanced community quarantine rules.

"Police and local officials should respect the rights of those they arrest for violating curfew and other public health regulations, which can be done while still allowing the Philippine government to take appropriate measures to combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)," Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said in a statement.

"Any mistreatment should be immediately investigated and the authorities responsible held accountable," he added.

The call was made due to several reports of allegedly degrading punishments for some violators of curfew, social distancing, and other quarantine regulations.

The HRW cited the case of the Parañaque residents who had been left under the heat of the sun at midday for non-compliance to the 24-hour curfew being imposed by the local government.

Local authorities later claimed that it was not a punishment and they just simply had no other holding area for the violators.

The group also noted that some barangay officials of Sta. Cruz, Laguna allegedly locked up five youths inside a dog cage last week for violating curfew and verbal abuse.

According to the Department of Justice, violators of the Luzon-wide quarantine can be arrested even if they did not seriously resist persons of authority. 

It cited the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, which penalizes "non-cooperation of persons or entities that should report and/or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern." 

The HRW urged the Philippine government to ensure that the human rights of residents held in custody for various violations during the COVID-19 situation, would not be neglected. -MDM, GMA News