The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expresses concern over the arrest of Maria Victoria ‘Bambi’ Beltran early Sunday, 19 April 2020, in Cebu City.
Reports say that the warrantless arrest was made due to an alleged violation of the Cybercrime Law after Beltran posted on Facebook what she claims as a satirical response to the rising number of positive cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Sitio Zapatera, Barangay Luz.
Beltran was also said to have taken down the post after Cebu Mayor Edgar Labella threatened her with an arrest.
A fully functional democratic society should be able to allow the reasonable exercise of free speech and expression as a means to participate in matters concerning public life. Arrests should never be made as a default response to dissent. Governments, especially in localities, should be able to engage in a healthy dialogue to enlighten its citizens instead of triggering fear.
In this regard, we hope that we can channel our collective energies and efforts to curbing the transmission of COVID-19 and addressing the socio-economic needs on the ground brought about by the loss of livelihood due to enhanced quarantine, which is equally pressing human rights concerns.
We stress that human rights cannot be suspended even during public emergencies. Restrictions to freedoms are also bound by the parameters set by human rights law and should never lead to their abrogation. In this regard, CHR Region VII is already investigating this case in the interest of knowing the truth and in defense of freedoms and human dignity.
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