[Urgent Action] Harassment of a Priest by Barangay Officials in Manila -PAHRA

An alleged incident of harassment was reported yesterday March 19, 2020, against Fr. Flavie Villanueva, SVD who heads the Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center in Barangay 344, Sta. Cruz, Manila. According to reports, barangay officials forced them to stop food distribution to their beneficiaries for alleged violation of the social distancing order of the Enhanced Community Quarantine. Barangay officials insisted that Fr. Flavie et al violated the mass gathering and social distancing rules under the enhanced community quarantine policy of the government, aimed at supposedly subduing the proliferation of the coronavirus. The incident happened when barangay officials went to the center at around 10:00am on March 19, 2020. Barangay officials, later on, summoned the police for assistance.

Fr. Villanueva claimed no mass gathering occurred and social distancing was observed. He emphasized that only 12 to 15 people were allowed inside the center and those in line were at least 1.5 meters apart.

“The homeless have no options amid a lockdown where people are asked to stay in their homes”, said Fr. Villanueva. He even told the barangay officials to provide an alternative that resembles what he is currently doing in order for him to stop.
Regrettably, the beneficiaries of the program were forced to disperse due to fear of being arrested.

Feeding programs, like the government’s quarantine program, are also life-saving measures to the homeless and the poor who currently have no means nor the freedom to make a living. There is no law that prohibits feeding programs of civic organizations or of the Catholic Church.

The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates affirms that the government’s lack of planning, preparation, and organization in responding to the COVID19 pandemic has left vulnerable sectors such as the poor and homeless to fend for themselves. Fr. Flavie Villanueva opened his center, despite a quarantine order, to assist those homeless and underprivileged who have no access to government help.

Actions Requested:
Please write to the Philippine authorities, urging them to:
· Stop the harassment of Fr. Flavie Villanueva and the Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center;
· Ensure the free and unhampered operation of the center including its feeding program;
· Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Fr. Flavie Villanueva;
· Ensure that government services reach the homeless and indigent communities especially during the Luzon lockdown;
· Fr. Flavie is a human rights defender. Subject to the limitations and correct interpretation of the COVID19 quarantine policies, the government should comply in all circumstances with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular its Articles 1, 6(c) and 12.2; and
· Urge all levels of government to comply with international human rights standards in humanitarian response, in particular in relation to COVID19.

(Reference: https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/03/19/20/authorities-stop-homeless-feeding-care-program-in-manila-amid-luzon-lockdown / Photo Credit: https://news.abs-cbn.com/news)

Please forward this Urgent Action to the following agencies and institutions:

Mr. Rodrigo Roa Duterte
Philippine President
Malacañang Complex, J.P. Laurel Street, San Miguel, Manila, 1005 Philippines
Telefax No. +63(2)-87368621
Website: https://op-proper.gov.ph/contact-us/
Email: pcc@malacanang.gov.ph

Ms. Maria Leonor G. Robredo
Philippine Vice President
1112, 100 11th Street, New Manila, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippine
Telephone Nos: (63) 905 626 3237; (632) 8534 6451
Email: vp@ovp.gov.ph; lenirobredo.ovp@gmail.com
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Office-Of-The-Vice-President/490197837660269

Mr. Eduardo M. Año (Ret.Gen)
Secretary, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)
Direct Line No.: 8925-0330; 89250331;Fax No. 8925-0332
Trunkline: 8876-3454 loc. 1001
Email: emano@dilg.gov.ph

Mr. Archie Francisco F. Gamboa
Police General
Camp BGen Rafael T Crame, Quezon City, Metro Manila, 1111 Philippines
Trunk Line: (632) 723-0401
Website: http://www.pnp.gov.ph/main/index.php?option=com_contact&view=contact&id=1&Itemid=67
Facebook Account: https://www.facebook.com/pnp.pio/

Mr. Jose Luis Martin C. Gascon
Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson
SAAC Building, UP Complex, Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City, 1101
Telephone Nos: (632) 8928-56-55; (632) 8926-6188; (632) 8920-9510
Telefax (02) 8929-0102
Email: chairgascon.chr@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChairChito

Mr. Francisco M. Domagoso
Mayor, City of Manila
C/o Bernardito C. Ang
Telephone No: (632) 5275191
Fax: (632) 5275208
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/iskomorenodomagoso/

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland
Email: urgent-action@ohchr.org

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