Imprisonment

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It would seem that government officials are running out of ideas and are now turning to instilling fear among the people of the country to ensure compliance with health protocols against COVID-19. Instead of focusing on more diligent and humane enforcement with heavier fines, they resort to the threat of imprisonment as a penalty for quarantine violators.

The Department of Interior and Local Government is urging local governments to pass resolutions punishing quarantine violators with imprisonment as it reminded the public to strictly comply with health protocols to arrest the further spread of the coronavirus disease 2019.

“We have encouraged our mayors to pass ordinances so that the implementation will be uniform and all violators should be punished with imprisonment so it will serve as a lesson and they will no longer violate,” DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said during a meeting of the government’s pandemic task force in Davao City last Tuesday.

Imprisonment as a penalty can be effective in scaring people into compliance, especially when physical distancing is impossible in the country’s woefully overcrowded prisons and detention centers, making such facilities excellent breeding grounds for the same virus that our officials are trying to protect the population from. But is it the best solution to the problem of quarantine violations or is it just another kneejerk response to a series of problems over the past few months that have been requiring a more nuanced approach?

The mentality of the DILG in the case of recommending imprisonment for quarantine violators demonstrates our government’s narrow minded approach to the COVID-19 crisis over the past few months. After doing the same thing over and over again for the past three months and getting the same results, isn’t it time our best and brightest broadened their horizons and adjusted their approach?*

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