CHR reminds police, military: Violence not first option

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Thursday, April 23, reminded law enforcers that they must prioritize the use of non-violent means over force or firearms, as the government steps up its coronavirus lockdown measures.

Citing the United Nations' Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said police should be practice restraint if the use of firearms is unavoidable.

"Under the same principles, it was outlined that if the use of force and firearms is unavoidable, then authorities must practice restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense, mindful of minimizing damage and injury and with respect to the preservation of human life," she said.

The commission was reacting to the killing of former Philippine Army corporal Winston Ragos by Police Master Sergeant Daniel Florendo Jr  on Tuesday, April 21. Cops said Ragos was about to pull a gun out of his sling bag, a claim that his mother rejected.

Florendo is now facing a criminal and administrative probe being conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP), who said it was his judgment call to shoot.

De Guia said the CHR hopes that the PNP's investigation will be "fair and partial."

The CHR and the Philippine Army are conducting separate probes as well.

Ragos' killing comes amid rising concerns by human rights groups over how police and soldiers are enforcing the lockdown.

On April 1, President Rodrigo Duterte himself ordered troops to kill quarantine violators.

"It is most alarming when these measures trigger allegations of human rights violations and, worse, result in any loss of lives," said De Guia.

"Law enforcers must always remain respectful of human rights, even in the face of a national health emergency." (READ: Using pandemic to erode human rights is 'unacceptable' – U.N. chief–

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.