De Lima wants ‘better and clearer’ rules of engagement for law enforcers during quarantine

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To minimize violent altercations between the police and alleged violators of quarantine protocols in areas under lockdown, opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima urged the government to consider adjusting the rules of engagement of law enforcers.

De Lima made the statement after reports that members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) have aggressively responded to supposed violations of community guidelines in areas under community quarantine.

“We need to establish better clearer rules of engagement for the enforcement of community quarantine rules. Our police officers are expected to make situational decisions that they are not properly trained to do,” the former justice secretary said.

“Hindi na katanggap-tanggap ang mga napapaulat na paglabag sa mga karapatang pantao sa ngalan ng pagpapatupad ng mga ECQ rules,” she added.

Since the implementation of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in mid-March, several incidents of alleged human rights violations committed by members of the PNP have been reported – some of which have resulted to trespassing, grave physical injuries and even death.

Last April 14, former Cpl. Winston Ragos of the Philippine Army was gunned down outside of his residence in Quezon City, after being accosted for violating quarantine protocols, for being confrontational and for allegedly attempting to pull out a firearm on the officers.

A video of another physical altercation between the police and a foreign national in Makati also went viral, which according to reports, have stemmed from the police demanding to fine a housekeeper PhP1,000, for not wearing a face mask while watering plants in front of their property.

It also can be recalled that last April 19, four armed police officers forced their way into a condominium complex in Taguig City sans a warrant and forcefully disbanded residents, including children, who have gathered in an indoor public swimming pool.

“Kailangan ba tutukan ng baril ang mga sibilyan na nakikipagtalo sa opisyal na nagpapatupad ng quarantine? Paano ba ang dapat gawin sa sibilyan na hindi sumusunod sa atas ng opisyal? Paano ba ang dapat gawin sa nagpoprotesta sa pinapatupad na quarantine rules? Dapat bang dakpin ang mga walang facemask?” De Lima, a life-long human rights advocate, asked.

“Since it is the first time that our police officers are enforcing a quarantine, many of them are having problems calibrating their response, treating belligerence as threatening criminal offenses,” she added.

Other local and foreign human rights organizations, including the United Nations, have urged governments around the world to be avoid abusing their powers to commit human rights violations, in guise of anti-COVID-19 restrictions.

United Nations Human Rights Commissioner (UNHRC) Michelle Bachelet has called out the Philippine government, among others, for a “highly militarized response” to violators of quarantine protocols.

“Emergency powers should not be a weapon governments can wield to quash dissent, control the population, and even perpetuate their time in power. They should be used to cope effectively with the pandemic – nothing more, nothing less,” Bachelet was quoted to have said.

The Philippines’ Commission of Human Rights (CHR), on its part, has also urged police and barangay officials tasked to enforce community quarantine rules to be conscious of human rights in their performance of their duties.

“We need to understand that quarantine does not suspend our constitution and human rights. Our police force and our government have the frightening power to destroy human lives, that is why they are given the burden, and the implicit duty, to hold their temper in the face of dissent,” De Lima said.

“It is not helping, as it is most deplorable, that the current occupant in MalacaƱang publicly instructs our law enforcers to commit violence against quarantine violators,” she added./Stacy Ang

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