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UN rebukes Philippines’ ‘highly militarized response’ to ECQ violators

The High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations (UN) raised the alarm over the Philippine government’s “highly militarized response” to violators of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet noted that some 120,000 Filipinos have been arrested for violating the ECQ prevailing over Luzon and other areas at high risk for coronavirus transmission.

“Emergency powers should not be a weapon governments can wield to quash dissent, control the population, and even perpetuate their time in power,” Bachelet said in a statement.

She underscored that the right to life, to not be illegally detained, and the prohibition against torture and other forms of ill treatment “continue to apply in all circumstances.”

Bachelet also said that her office has received reports from different regions about government forces using excessive and lethal force to punish quarantine violators.

“Shooting, detaining, or abusing someone for breaking a curfew because they are desperately searching for food is clearly an unacceptable and unlawful response,” the high commissioner said.

In separate incidents in Quezon City, an Army veteran was shot dead by quarantine checkpoint personnel last week, while a fish vendor was beaten up by lockdown enforcers for not wearing a mask.

Meanwhile, a scuffle broke out between police and a Spanish man in Makati over alleged quarantine violations over the weekend.

“They should only use force when strictly necessary, and lethal force can only be used when there is an imminent risk to life,” Bachelet told law enforcement officers.

“If the rule of law is not upheld, then the public health emergency risks becoming a human rights disaster, with negative effects that will long outlast the pandemic itself,” she added.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said the implementation of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is not a license to violate human rights.

Roque said the government is open for complaints of human rights violations amid the implementation of the measure against the COVID-19.

The Philippine National Police earlier reported that they had so far recorded 136,517 ECQ violators. -MDM, GMA News