UN calls out PH’s ‘highly militarized’ lockdown response

THE United Nations this week raised concern over the “toxic lockdown culture” that several countries have adopted as they fight the coronavirus pandemic, citing the Philippines’ “highly militarized response” to violators of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet on Monday, April 27 noted that 120,000 Filipinos have been arrested for violating the curfew imposed under Luzon’s lockdown.

The emergency powers “should not be a weapon governments can wield to quash dissent, control the population, and even perpetuate their time in power,” she said.
“Shooting, detaining, or abusing someone for breaking a curfew because they are desperately searching for food is clearly an unacceptable and unlawful response. So is making it difficult or dangerous for a woman to get to hospital to give birth. In some cases, people are dying because of the inappropriate application of measures that have been supposedly put in place to save them,” Bachelet added.

The UN has reportedly received reports of the disproportionate use of force by security officers, particularly in poor and informal settlements.

“Rubber bullets, tear gas, water guns and whips have been used to enforce social distancing in shopping lines…and outside their homes,” the high commissioner said.
Earlier this week, lockdown enforcers were caught on camera beating a fish vendor with a rattan stick for allegedly not wearing a face mask. Last week, a military personnel was shot dead by a cop manning a community quarantine checkpoint in Quezon City.

“They should only use force when strictly necessary, and lethal force can only be used when there is an imminent risk to life,” Bachelet said.

“If the rule of law is not upheld, then the public health emergency risks becoming a human rights disaster, with negative effects that will long outlast the pandemic itself,” she added.

So far, 136,517 lockdown violators have been recorded by the Philippine National Police.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at ritchel.mendiola@asianjournalinc.com.

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