A Catholic bishop in the Philippine capital called on authorities to be more considerate of the poor as more people have been reported arrested and detained due to quarantine violations.
Earlier this month, Joseph Jimeda, a 58-year old fish vendor in the city of Caloocan, was arrested for not carrying a valid quarantine pass in the nearby port city of Navotas.
Jimeda was among hundreds of other violators detained inside the Navotas Sports Complex. He was in detention for more than a week already when his family learned about it.
“I know the jailers just did what they were instructed to. So, the consideration should come from the leaders,” said Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan.
“To make decisions in conscience is to balance protecting lives from the pandemic and understanding the plight of the poor,” added the prelate.
He noted that among the arrested violators were minors. The bishop suggested that there should be provisions imposed for first, second, and third offenses before arrests are made.
Jimeda pleaded guilty to disobedience to persons in authority and got a 10-day sentence after spending 12 days in detention.
“I think jailers abide strictly by the now-famous Latin saying ‘Dura Lex Sed Lex,’ which means the law is hard, but such is the law— except that the law tends to be harder on the poor than on those with means and influence,” said Bishop David.
On May 15, Major General Debold Sinas, chief of police in the national capital region, and 18 other police officers were charged a week after pictures of the general’s birthday bash went viral.
In the photos, policemen can be seen not observing proper social distancing, some were not wearing face masks, and were even drinking beer despite the alcohol ban.
Despite public clamor for the general’s resignation, President Rodrigo Duterte defended Sinas and insisted that the general remains in his post.
“You’ll say that the law is the law, well, that’s up to me,” said the president on May 19.
“Whatever happened to the other saying that goes, ‘Those who have less in life should have more in law?'” asked Bishop David.
“I have yet to hear someone in the government invoke this principle in defense of the poor,” he added.
“Jailers are never expected to be kind. Their bosses expect them to be tough, hard and unrelenting in the fulfillment of their duties. It is necessary for maintaining order, but it is also how you can also create a whole system of cruelty,” said the prelate.
“The hard law cannot be softened; but the human heart can,” he said.