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CHR decries warrantless arrest of Cebu-based writer over satirical COVID-19 post

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has decried the arrest of Cebu-based writer Maria Victoria "Bambi" Beltran over a satirical post on the government’s response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia was referring to Beltran’s arrest last April 19 over her Facebook post involving COVID-19 infections at Sitio Zapatera in Barangay Luz, Cebu City.

In her Facebook post, Beltran said that Sitio Zapatera has 9,000 COVID-19 cases and the site “is now the epicenter in the whole solar system.”

Cebu Mayor Edgar Labella threatened Beltran with arrest over the post, prompting Beltran to take down her post. Still, Beltran was arrested over her Facebook post which her accusers claim was fake news.

Beltran has since posted bail worth P42,000.

“A fully functional democratic society should be able to allow the reasonable exercise of free speech and expression as a means to participate in matters concerning public life. Arrests should never be made as a default response to dissent,” De Guia said in a statement.

She stressed that local government units should be able to engage in a healthy dialogue to enlighten its citizens, instead of triggering fear.

“Human rights cannot be suspended even during public emergencies. Restrictions to freedoms are also bound by the parameters set by human rights law and should never lead to their abrogation,” De Guia said.

“We hope that we can channel our collective energies and efforts to curb the transmission of COVID-19 and addressing the socio-economic needs on the ground brought about by loss of livelihood due to enhanced quarantine which are equally pressing human rights concerns,” De Guia added.

The CHR Region 7 is already investigating the incident, De Guia said.

Sitio Zapatera has so far recorded 53 cases of COVID-19. -MDM, GMA News