The Commission on Human Rights on Wednesday hit authorities for arresting some protesting Quezon City residents due to alleged hunger amid the enhanced community quarantine to contain the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Lawyer and spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said the CHR “cannot emphasize further the importance of protecting human rights during a national health crisis.
“Stricter policies, such as the enhanced quarantine, were set to protect the people’s right to health," de Guia added.
In a statement, the Quezon City government said it wished to clarify “the unfortunate incident that occurred this morning” at Sitio San Roque, where police forcibly dispersed the protesters near a mall along North EDSA.
“First, the local government and Brgy. Bagong Pag-asa deny media reports that no food packs have been distributed in the area," the city said.
"In fact, there is continuous distribution of food packs throughout the city, both from the local government and the barangays to ensure that affected families are looked after during this crisis period,” it added.
As per Commission on Audit guidelines, all recipients of food packs must be properly documented, and the city government “wishes to assure the public this is strictly being complied with, and documents are available for scrutiny in the interest of transparency," it added.
Mayor Joy Belmonte has instructed city personnel to review the list to make sure nobody has been inadvertently left out, the statement added.
A Bayan Muna lawmaker condemned the dispersal and arrest of residents who he said had gathered to demand relief and assistance.
“Social unrest is growing and erupting as the government's crisis response remains wanting,” Partylist Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said in a statement.
“While [President Rodrigo] Duterte and [Senator Christopher] Bong Go posts photos of their meals during their quarantine, hunger and desperation is creeping in poor communities because of government inaction in providing the people with adequate assistance,” he added.
Pacifying and repressing people’s clamor for food will worsen the crisis, labor group Defend Jobs Philippines (DJP) added.
“Arrests, detentions, repression and other moves to pacify the real and growing clamor of our people for adequate aid and support will never be a solution to the crisis that we are currently facing,” said DJP spokesperson Thadeus Ifurung.
“If the government’s response will remain slow and inadequate, then it must brace itself for a sudden explosion of a social volcano that has long been building up,” he said.