Humanitarian tack needed in crisis

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    AMONG the various agencies under the Executive branch, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) seems to lead the few offices taking the role of a contrarian in this government.

    Not that this is wrong.  Actually, the present dispensation needs to hear the points of view of other well-meaning individuals and institutions especially now that the nation is facing its greatest public health and social crisis called COVID-19.

    Lately, the CHR said it believes that a “humanitarian approach” is needed to ensure the country’s peace and order situation amid the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, with particular reference to the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine.

    CHR Spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia noted that the Chief Executive and the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) recently made remarks to implement martial law-style enforcement of quarantine protocols.

    While the Commission would like to believe that these remarks are intended to deter violators of the quarantine and ensure cooperation of the public, Commissioner de Guia said that the best way to achieve peace and order is through a “humanitarian approach.”

    De Guia said further: “Proper enforcement and public cooperation are indeed expedient. For a thorough implementation, we reiterate the need for clear-cut guidelines for law enforcers on the ground that will provide scenarios, do’s and don’ts, and commensurate penalties. This will also serve as a safeguard against abuse of authority, guarantee respect for rights, and prevent undue panic.”

    True, law enforcers may find it convenient to impose sweeping ECQ measures, even “hard lockdown” as Manila Mayor Isko Moreno termed it, but the CHR insists that they still need to consider all factors and make sure that no human dignity is trampled upon.

    “Our right to health can only be fully protected through the continuing exercise of the wide array of other rights, such as right to information, food, free speech, and economic security. Hence, we continue to call for holistic approach that will ensure public health while upholding human rights and dignity,” CHR’s De Guia stressed, and we think she is right.

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