The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Thursday raised concern over President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to arrest and detain people not wearing their masks or wearing them improperly in public, saying the measure could be abused by law enforcers.

In a statement, CHR spokeswoman Jacqueline Ann de Guia called for “reasonable and humane” disciplinary measures for violators.

“In the absence of clear guidelines, we are concerned that such directive may be prone to excessive discretion and abuse,” she said.

“Given the overcrowded conditions of jails and other detention facilities in the Philippines, detention may not be sound in preventing the further spread of Covid-19 in communities,” she added.

De Guia said that intensive education and information campaigns would be more effective in encouraging the public to adhere to health protocols instead of threats.

“A human rights-based approach in addressing the pandemic requires a healthy and careful balance of protecting rights based on standards. We may be in quarantine due to the pandemic, but rights should not be on lockdown,” she said.

In a Palace briefing, Harry Roque, the president’s spokesman, said detaining mask-wearing policy violators was “certainly not” harsh.

“Bago mo mapagawa sila ng community service, kailangan ma-apprehend mo muna sila. And that’s what the president says, i-apprehend iyong mga lumalabag sa minimum health standards. Hindi pa po parusa iyon,” he said.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Justice have already started crafting the guidelines in compliance with Duterte’s directive. John Ezekiel J. Hirro