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Advocating for human rights amid COVID-19

Graphic: Cartoon sketch of three health workers

The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines is using social media to draw attention to key human rights issues and promote dignity for all.

Since 11 March 2020 when the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, governments around the region have imposed strict measures to try and stem the spread of the virus.

In the midst of serious emergencies or public health threats, restrictions on some rights can be justified under international human rights law, including those that result from the imposition of a quarantine or some limits on freedom of movement.

However, careful attention to non-discrimination and principles such as transparency and respect for human dignity can help ensure an effective human rights response.


All States are facing tremendous challenges. Many are demonstrating their commitment to protecting human rights through this epidemic. Others should be encouraged to do so.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Logo Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines has used its social media platforms to draw attention to key human rights issues in the country during COVID-19 and the need to promote dignity for all.

Drawing on a checklist developed by Human Rights Watch, the Commission has published social media cards on a range of topics, including:

  • Freedom of expression and access to information
  • Quarantines, lockdowns and travel bans
  • The rights of women
  • The rights of people in detention
  • The rights of health workers
  • The right to education.

Cartoon sketch of newspaper, laptop and microphone

Protect freedom of expression and ensure access to critical information

Governments have an obligation to protect the right to freedom of expression, including the right to seek, receive and impart information of all kinds, regardless of frontiers


Cartoon sketch of city apartments at night

Ensure quarantines, lockdowns and travel bans comply with rights norms

Restrictions on rights for reasons of public health or national emergency must be lawful, necessary and proportionate. Restrictions such as mandatory quarantine or isolation of symptomatic people must, at a minimum, be carried out in accordance with the law


Cartoon sketch of a prison cell

Protect people in custody and in institutions

States have an obligation to ensure medical care for those in their custody at least equivalent to that available to the general population, and must not deny detainees, including asylum seekers or undocumented migrants, equal access to preventive curative or palliative healthcare


Cartoon sketch of three healthcare workers

Ensure protection of health workers

Governments have an obligation to minimise the risk of occupational accidents and diseases, including by ensuring workers have health information and adequate protective clothing and equipment


Image credits

  1. Cartoon sketch of three health workers - Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
  2. Cartoon sketch of newspaper, laptop and microphone - Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
  3. Cartoon sketch of city apartments at night - Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
  4. Cartoon sketch of a prison cell - Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
  5. Cartoon sketch of three healthcare workers - Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines