Philippines officials subjecting curfew violators to abuse, says HRW

Manila, Mar 26 (efe-epa).- Locking people in dog cages and forcing others to sit in the sun are some of the punishments Philippines authorities have imposed on those breaking COVID-19 curfew restrictions, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

On Mar. 20, officials in Santa Cruz, Laguna, admitted to locking up five youths inside a dog cage, defending themselves by saying they had been rounding up stray dogs that night and the youths had violated curfew and been verbally abusive, HRW said in a statement.

It added that officials in Paranaque, Metro Manila, forced curfew violators to sit in the intense midday sun after their arrest, with the authorities saying they temporarily had nowhere to hold them, while in Bulacan province, police killed a man after he allegedly avoided a checkpoint and shot at them during a chase.

“Police and local officials should respect the rights of those they arrest for violating curfew and other public health regulations, which can be done while still allowing the Philippines government to take appropriate measures to combat COVID-19,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “Any mistreatment should be immediately investigated, and the authorities responsible held accountable.”

HRW also warned that indiscriminate detention will further overcrowd the country’s detention centers – some of the most densely populated in the world – fueling the spread of COVID-19.

Hundreds of people have been arrested Manila and other parts of the country for breaking curfew restrictions after President Rodrigo Duterte put the main island of Luzon on lockdown on Mar. 16, which was followed by other cities and provinces.

The Philippines has been in a state of emergency since Wednesday, which means that people who violate the restrictions can be detained even if they do not resist police action, which could lead to further human rights abuses, according to several organizations.

Duterte obtained from Congress this week “special powers” for three months to deal with the outbreak and announced a national action plan led by the Army and the Police, a repressive turnaround, according to some critics, who point out that it should be the Health Department who stays ahead of the response to the pandemic

The Philippines has confirmed 636 positive cases and 38 deaths from COVID-19, although only 0.008 percent of the population has undergone the diagnostic test, so many more undetected cases are suspected. EFE-EPA


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