A Philippine human rights group slammed the order issued this week by President Rodrigo Duterte to arrest anyone who would be found not following health protocols, including those who don’t properly wear a face mask in public.
“This policy … is brazenly unscientific and ineffective, aside from a form of disproportionate use of force during a public health crisis that impacts mainly the poor population,” said rights group Karapatan in a statement on Thursday, April 6.
On Wednesday, Duterte instructed police to arrest people who do not wear their face masks properly, contradicting the Justice department’s advice on handling violation of protocols to contain COVID-19. The president said the public needs to wear masks “if you are a thinking person.”
“My orders to the police are, those who are not wearing their masks properly … arrest them and detain them, investigate them why they are doing it,” said Duterte. He said that if he would not strictly implement the health protocols, “nothing will happen.”
“I’m having a hard time here. Our funds our running out, and yet you continue to act recklessly. You will really end up at the police station,” said the president.
Karapatan, however, said detaining hundreds of violators in cramped facilities where physical distancing is impossible to observe “would only facilitate the rapid spread of infectious diseases.”
“The militarist and punitive framework of policing the pandemic in the form of policies resulting in mass arrests and detention of alleged violators runs counter to the purpose of quarantine protocols which is to protect and uphold people’s health,” read Karapatan’s statement.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told authorities last month not to arrest or detain violators of health protocols.
The World Health Organization has recommended the wearing of a mask when one is indoors and regardless of distance from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
On Thursday, the Health department said nearly half of sequenced COVID-19 samples from the Philippine capital are foreign variants of COVID-19. Close to 700 Filipinos are infected with new COVID-19 variants, the department said.
As of May 3, authorities have yet to confirm the presence of the Indian variant in the Philippines, but has monitored 1,075 B.1351 variant cases (first detected in South Africa), 948 B.1.1.7 variant cases (first detected in UK), 157 P.3 variant cases (first detected in the Philippines), and 2 P.1 variant cases (first detected in Brazil).