MANILA – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday said the use of force on the citizenry is not prohibited by the State as long as it is “necessary” and “proportional”.
Roque made this remark in response to United Nations (UN) special rapporteur Agnes Callamard’s claim that governments, including the Philippines, are supposedly using the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) health crisis as an excuse to implement “excessive force” on its citizens.
“I’d like to say re-state the rule in international law: The use of force is not prohibited by the State provided it is necessary and it is proportional,” Roque said in a virtual presser on Monday.
He emphasized that the government has “satisfied the criteria” since President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of national emergency due to the Covid-19 health crisis on March 9, 2020.
“I think the kind of responses, the use of force that we have seen satisfied this criteria, if not, then appropriate cases are filed whether be it criminal or administrative which is the duty of the state in case of an alleged violation of the Right to Life,” he said.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año also justified the use of force by law enforcement authorities, saying Filipinos are more disciplined when it comes to following quarantine protocols.
“Makikita natin ang pagsunod ng ating mga kababayan sa batas ay maganda. Ikumpara natin ito sa ibang bansa ay malaki ang diperensiya (We can see that Filipinos are really obedient when it comes to following the law. Compared to other countries, there’s a big difference),” he said.
Because enforcement authorities were “doing good in terms of peace and order”, Año said the country experienced a 59 percent drop in crime rate, which he said is one of the many “positives” achieved amid the health crisis.
“I mean, talaga namang by nature ay disiplinado ang mga Pilipino (Filipinos by nature are really disciplined),” he said.
At a recent webinar hosted by rights group Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines titled “#NoLockdownOnRights”, Callamard expressed fears that the “additional powers” given to authorities in countries that implemented lockdowns would only contribute to more human rights violations.
Callamard also claimed that the Philippines has been acting beyond international law even before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Long before the Covid-19 health crisis, she has criticized the administration’s aggressive crackdown on illegal drugs.
“Of course, in countries like the Philippines, law enforcement is already acting beyond international law and allowing the use of force, so you can only imagine what those additional powers under a state of emergency,” she said.
Not an expert
Roque, meanwhile, questioned Callamard’s credentials, saying she is “not a specialist” on the issue of extralegal killings.
“I know Professor Agnes, she’s not a specialist on extralegal killings. She is a specialist on freedom of expression,” Roque said.
He pointed out that it would have been better if the UN appointed an actual expert on extralegal killings of the same caliber as former UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Philip Alston.
“I wish Agnes good luck. I wish she could get tenure in her University, so that she could actually be recognized as an expert,” he said.
Callamard previously led a human rights organization promoting freedom of expression globally and conducted human rights investigations over 30 countries, according to her profile posted on the website of the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights.
She is also a special adviser to Columbia University president Lee Bollinger. (PNA)