CHR raises alarm over arrests during COVID-19 quarantine

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 20) — Violations made during the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon “should not be automatically meted with arrest,” the Commission on Human Rights said Friday.

CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia in a statement disclosed that they have received complaints of taxi drivers, a homeless senior citizen, and a number of minors being arrested for violating the curfew in some areas.

Cities in Metro Manila have imposed an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew while an enhanced community quarantine is in place in the entire Luzon – restricting the movement of people – to contain the spread of COVID-19. Manila City Mayor Francisco "Isko" Moreno Damagoso on Thursday said 16 people have been arrested in the nation's capital for curfew violations.

“In the first few days of the quarantine, many of these poor and homeless folks were arrested as many attempted to continue with their livelihood,” De Guia said.

While she called on the public to cooperate with the government’s guidelines, De Guia stressed that authorities should ensure that it is implemented as a measure to ensure people’s health and safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ: Philippines' COVID-19 death toll climbs to 18, cases now at 230

“It is never meant as a peace and order solution as emphasized by the President himself when he said that the quarantine is not tantamount to martial law. We, therefore, reiterate that violations should not be automatically meted with arrest,” De Guia said.

She added that arrests, including those without warrant, “must be strictly done within the legal standards inscribed in the law.”

Under the Rules of Court, a warrantless arrest can be done only when the person commits a crime in the presence of an officer, or when there is probable cause to believe -- based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances -- that a crime has just been committed, or when it is a prisoner escaping jail.

De Guia stressed that human rights, due process, and the rule of law should not take a hit during the quarantine.

"In tackling the pandemic, human dignity should not be diminished nor compromised. Our society's health and well-being is only as strong as that of our most vulnerable members," she added.