Quezon City- Human rights groups lamented the weaknesses in the government program to address COVID19 one month after the enforcement of the enhanced community quarantine, particularly the lack of mass testing.
In an online press conference assessing the one-month implementation of the Luzon-wide Lockdown, panelists said weak leadership, uncoordinated actions and heavy-handed punishment of curfew violators are adding to the people’s apprehensions.
“Government measures to combat COVID19 seriously lack the process to involve meaningfully, people’s participation,” said PAHRA(Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates) chairperson Dr. Nymia Pimentel Simbulan, “National authorities treated Filipinos as either naughty subjects or hapless victims, ignoring their important views on the national effort to combat COVID19. The paradigm of warfare was used to emphasize peace and order which resulted in human rights violations including torture, cruel and degrading treatment and sexual harassment. We are not at war! We are in defense of Life with Dignity” Simbulan added.
“Enhanced Community Quarantine has become an excuse to push the exploitative economic agenda of corporations and the development framework of government at the expense of indigenous peoples and rural communities”, said Judy Pasimio, iDEFEND (In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement) Spokesperson and Director of LILAK Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights. She cited the forced entry of diesel tankers of the mining company Oceana Gold Philippines, in Bgy Didipio Nueva Vizcaya despite quarantine regulations.
Atty. Teddy Te of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) cited that the justice system is overshadowed by the peace and order framework of government. He urged the Supreme Court to adopt special rules towards facilitating more accessible processes during the time of quarantine, since most lawyers are at home and could not physically assist their clients. “The Supreme Court have allowed virtual access in certain situations but it is not enough”, Te remarked. “Legal and rights information become very important in these times. People need to know what to do and should have access to useful knowledge.” Te added.
Gary Granada of the artist group LAPIS said that the global pandemic exposed and exacerbated the stark inequalities in Philippine society, and has caught government unprepared to mitigate the gap.
Dr. Nemuel Fajutagana of the Medical Action Group(MAG) reiterated the health sector’s appeal for protection and assistance to health personnel especially in the extended quarantine period where he said they are already experiencing fatigue and heightened stress.
The group called on government to strengthen a rights-based approach to the COVID19 response which puts a premium on transparency and accountability of authorities, effective and empowering participation of affected communities, and science-based processes towards flattening the curve.
The full version of the online press conference can be viewed in this link
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