Rights advocates score Duterte ‘martial law-like measures’ during ECQ

Apr. 21, 2020

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to implement “martial law-like” measures, allegedly to curb violations of the enhanced community quarantine. Human rights advocates, however, said that militarist actions are uncalled for, and could potentially lead to human rights abuses.

The President appealed for the public’s discipline as authorities while the government continued to fight the spread of the coronavirus disease.

“I’m asking for your discipline. If you don’t want to, you don’t want to believe, the military and police will take over. I’m ordering them now to be ready. It will be them. It’s like martial law. You choose,” President Duterte said in a late-night televised address last April 19.

Authorities earlier reported that over 100,000 individuals have violated guidelines of the Luzon-wide quarantine.

Rights group Karapatan, however, said that “more draconian and militarist measures will not only fail to comprehensively address the crisis but these will also effectively worsen and prolong it.”

“From mass arrests of the poor, abuses in checkpoints, heightened police and military deployment in communities, to continuing counterinsurgency operations in the countryside despite the government’s unilateral ceasefire declaration and the repeated scapegoating of the Left, Duterte’s threats of imposing martial law is already a lived reality for Filipinos,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a statement.

Palabay stressed that blaming people’s supposed lack of discipline to justify more repressive policies “misses the point of why people, especially the poor, find it so hard to abide by quarantine measures.”

“People are going out of their homes to flock to markets or to continue their livelihood because of their precarious living conditions caused by years of government neglect and anti-poor policies. They are not receiving sufficient aid if they even receive anything at all, and now, the government is more intent in criminalizing and penalizing the poor for their poverty,” Palabay added.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr., also wrote, in a Facebook post, that the coronavirus crisis should not be treated as a mere peace and order problem.

“We recognize that there are problems with how quarantine measures are being followed, but this is not solely the result of so-called ‘hard-headed individuals’ or ‘pasaways’. The government plan or lack thereof in implementing the harsh lockdown is as much to blame for the problems we have now,” Reyes said.

Reyes believed that the lack of preparations, inadequate social protection, and mass education on Covid-19 continue to hamper ECQ implementation. These, however, will not be solved by deploying soldiers on the streets.

Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite, meanwhile, noted that countries who were successful in curbing the spread of the virus had a comprehensive and appropriate medical plan.

“But the government remains amiss in this regard, the promised mass testing has not yet even materialized. Instead of mass testing, Duterte it seems is more hell-bent on mass arrests and mass imprisonment,” Gaite said, in a press release.

As the extended enhanced community quarantine in the entire Luzon is expected to lapse on April 30, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) said it continues to discuss whether to recommend further extending or lift it.

The Philippine National Police has reported 126,302 individuals arrested nationwide for violations of the enhanced community quarantine.(davaotoday.com)

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