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Church-based rights group to government: “adopt scientific, pro-people approach to Covid-19”

President Rodrigo Duterte’s government should adopt a scientific, pro-active and pro-people solutions to combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, the Ramento Project for Rights Defenders (RPRD) said in a statement on Sunday, March 22.

Speaking for RPRD, Bishop Ronelio Fabriquier said that the president must seek solutions that prioritize the needs of the health sector and healthcare workers and welfare of the key affected population.

The Bishop, who serves as RPRD board chairperson, said the president must deal with the health emergency with urgency and sincerity to protect the people’s constitutional rights to health, life and security.

President Duterte, on March 16, placed the country under a state of calamity for the next six months amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With the proclamation, an enhanced community quarantine was declared over the whole of Luzon from March 17 to April 12.

The same proclamation ordered the mobilization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, on top of the Philippine National Police, to ensure the implementation of an enhanced community quarantine over the whole of Luzon, which also covers the
National Capital Region.

Amid fears of human rights abuses being committed by those in the uniformed service, RPRD strongly expressed disagreement with the Luzon-wide militarized lockdown.

RPRD executive director Fr. Jonash Joyohoy believes that the government is wrong to believe that a militarist approach will offer solutions to the health crisis. He said the presence of state security forces on the ground only instilled fears among the population.

“The government’s responsibility to protect and promote human rights must not be put at the sidelines even with this health emergency,” the priest said.

“The best option would be to withdraw the presence of police and military forces from the communities to enable the people access health services and social assistance without fear for their safety and security,” he added.

For the government to effectively address the health crisis and its consequences, RPRD believes it needs to focus its efforts and resources under a contingency plan that prioritizes healthcare services and offers responsive social and economic reliefs to the poor.

RPRD challenged the government to establish a contingency plan with adequate resources for the delivery of free public healthcare and support to the health sector, special economic and medical protections for the key affected population, and for the preservation of democracy and protection of fundamental rights in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

RPRD is a program of the South Central Luzon Bishops Conference of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente that offers assistance to church and non-church human rights defenders.

(Photo from Bulatlat.com)

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