Filipinos decry double standards for quarantine violators

The Philippines now has 707 known COVID-19 cases, with 45 deaths. Twenty-eight people are known to have recovered. (AP)
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Updated 27 March 2020

Filipinos decry double standards for quarantine violators

  • High-ranking politicians have reportedly ignored quarantine restrictions
  • Senator Pimentel is accused of endangering medical staff

MANILA: Public discontent is rising in the Philippines, where many are accusing the government of double standards following reports that high-ranking officials have failed to respect the island-wide community quarantine on Luzon, initiated by the Department of Health on March 17 to help curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Among those known to have broken the quarantine rules and to have later tested positive for COVID-19 is Senator Aquilino Pimentel III.
Pimentel drew public ire for accompanying his pregnant wife to the Makati Medical Center (MMC), despite knowing that he could be infected. He later disclosed that his COVID-19 test came out positive.
MMC management slammed the senator for his “irresponsible and reckless action,” which put health care workers at risk of contracting the disease.
MMC director Saturnino Javier said that several members of staff may need to be quarantined following Pimentel’s visit, “which will further deplete the dwindling workforce of the hospital.” He added that although Pimentel was not aware that he had contracted COVID-19 when he visited the hospital, he was supposed to take the recommended precautions given that he knew Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, with whom he had been in contact, was infected.


• High-ranking politicians have reportedly ignored quarantine restrictions.

• Senator Pimentel accused of endangering medical staff.

Pimentel initially denied any wrongdoing, but on Thursday he apologized to the hospital, saying that he had not intended to breach any protocols and simply wanted to be with his wife during her labor.
Despite public uproar, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said that Pimentel’s conduct would not be investigated.
“The glaring double standard in how penalties are being imposed in this ‘enhanced community quarantine’ cannot be ignored,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the human rights group KARAPATAN. “While the marginalized have faced ... unjust penalties and human rights violations for supposed violations of the quarantine measures, Senator Pimentel, who is actually positive for the disease, gets to have an easy pass despite putting hundreds of lives — especially frontline health workers and medical personnel — at risk with his recklessness.”
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who had previously asserted that quarantine violators would be arrested, said the DOJ would “temper the rigor of the law with human compassion.”
Palabay responded, “Where was this ‘human compassion’ when the homeless and the urban poor were subjected to ... detention in dog cages, or being made to sit under the sun as punishment for simply being outside their homes for the need to earn a living, or for simply having no home at all?”
During a press briefing on Thursday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III admitted that Pimentel had indeed violated the quarantine rules.
The Philippines now has 707 known COVID-19 cases, with 45 deaths. Twenty-eight people are known to have recovered.

‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

Updated 09 July 2020

‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

  • Pakistan played positive role in US-Taliban peace talks, says diplomat

PESHAWAR: Afghanistan’s newly appointed special envoy for Pakistan has had put “mending political relations” between the two estranged nations as one of his top priorities.

Mohammed Umer Daudzai, on Tuesday said that his primary focus would be to ensure lasting peace in Afghanistan and maintain strong ties with Pakistan, especially after Islamabad’s key role in the Afghan peace process earlier this year.

In an exclusive interview, the diplomat told Arab News: “Two areas have been identified to focus on with renewed vigor, such as lasting peace in Afghanistan and cementing Pak-Afghan bilateral ties in economic, social, political and other areas.”

In order to achieve these aims, he said, efforts would be intensified “to mend political relations” between the neighboring countries.

Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,600-kilometer porous border and have been at odds for years. Bonds between them have been particularly strained due to a deep mistrust and allegations of cross-border infiltration by militants.

Kabul has blamed Islamabad for harboring Taliban leaders after they were ousted from power in 2001. But Pakistan has denied the allegations and, instead, accused Kabul of providing refuge to anti-Pakistan militants – a claim rejected by Afghanistan.

Daudzai said his immediate priority would be to focus on “political reconciliation” between the two countries, especially in the backdrop of a historic peace agreement signed in February this year when Pakistan played a crucial role in facilitating a troop withdrawal deal between the US and the Taliban to end the decades-old Afghan conflict. “Afghanistan needs political reconciliation which the Afghan government has already been working on to achieve bottom-up harmony,” he added.

Daudzai’s appointment Monday by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani took place days after Islamabad chose Mohammed Sadiq as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special representative for Afghanistan.

Reiterating the need to maintain strong bilateral ties with all of its neighbors, Daudzai said Pakistan’s role was of paramount importance to Afghanistan.

“Pakistan has a positive role in the US-Taliban peace talks, and now Islamabad could play a highly significant role in the imminent intra-Afghan talks. I will explore all options for a level-playing field for the success of all these initiatives,” he said, referring in part to crucial peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban which were delayed due to a stalemate in a prisoner exchange program – a key condition of the Feb. 29 peace deal.

Under the agreement, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and around 1,000 government prisoners were to be freed by March 10. So far, Afghanistan has released 3,000 prisoners, while the Taliban have freed 500. Daudzai said that while dates had yet to be finalized, the intra-Afghan dialogue could begin “within weeks.”

He added: “A date for intra-Afghan talks hasn’t been identified yet because there is a stalemate on prisoners’ release. But I am sure they (the talks) will be kicked off within weeks.”

Experts say Daudzai’s appointment could give “fresh momentum” to the stalled process and revitalize ties between the two estranged neighbors.

“Mohammed Sadiq’s appointment...could lead Kabul-Islamabad to a close liaison and better coordination,” Irfanullah Khan, an MPhil scholar and expert on Afghan affairs, told Arab News.

Daudzai said that he would be visiting Islamabad to kickstart the process as soon as the coronavirus disease-related travel restrictions were eased.

Prior to being appointed as the special envoy, he had served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan from April 2011 to August 2013.