More than a month into the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the National Council of Churches in the Philippines voices concern over rising human rights violations. “While the government has forwarded the narrative that the public, especially the poor, is the “pasaway” (miscreant, hard-headed), in the eyes of the UN, and increasingly, the general public, it is the Philippine government that is the “pasaway”, Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza the General Secretary of the NCCP said.
“It is gravely alarming that in the midst of extended community lock down, the authorities seem to be more aggressive in arresting and shooting its citizens, referring to them as ‘pasaway’, rather than easing out their problems in this situation”. Bp. Marigza stated.
The UN recently cited the Philippines for its “highly militarized response”. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) mentioned the Philippines as one of the countries where there are alarming incidents of rights violations in the guise of COVID-19 restrictions, topping the list with 120,000 people apprehended for curfew violations in the past 30 days. This came as the UN also reminded world leaders that emergency powers should not be a weapon governments can wield to quash dissent, control the population, and even perpetuate their time in power.
“What is more alarming are the arrests of at least 76 individuals around the country on Labor Day. Those arrested in Marikina and Quezon City, were providing food and other relief goods to our poor sisters and brothers affected by the ECQ. Those arrested in Iloilo, which include Fr. Marco Sulayao of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and his daughter, Mace, were supposed to hold an indignation caravan over the killing of activist Jose Reynaldo “Jory” Porquia, who was also providing food for the poor”, Bp. Marigza said.
Prior to the May 1 arrests, there were already reports about the authority’s excessive use of power. Incidents like the arrest of a fish vendor in Quezon City who was mauled by the police for not wearing a face mask, the shooting of an ex-army suffering from PTSD, the arrest of former Anakpawis Representative Ariel “Ayik” Casilao and relief volunteers that were with him, as well as reports of police or barangay officials who arrested or tortured people who violated quarantine regulations have angered the public.
“Poor folks and those sounding the alarm like critics and activists, receive the brunt of this brutality, it is like an undeclared martial law. It is also perplexing that despite the presence of heavily armed state personnel in most cities all over the country, armed men were able to kill an activist like Jory Porquia” Bp. Marigza, said.
Bp. Marigza said that since the start of the ECQ, it was the government that was being “pasaway” by not heeding the call of international bodies like the UN and being late in responding to calls of the WHO for mass testing. “The UN called for respecting human rights and to release political prisoners and those who are sick and elderly while the WHO called for mass testing, and the government seems to be ignoring the former and was late and inadequate in responding to the calls of the latter, while preoccupying itself heavily on imposing law and order. The government must not be the pasaway in this case, it must champion human rights as they are very needed in this time of pandemic,” Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, NCCP General Secretary concluded.##