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Makabayan solons warn of rights violations in ‘house-to-house’ search for COVID-19 cases


Lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc on Wednesday denounced the supposed planned deployment of police and local government personnel to conduct "house-to-house" search for COVID-19 cases, warning of the possible rights violations that this move may cause.

In a statement, Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate said the move is a violation of the people's basic right as stated in Article III Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution, which states that "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable."

He said that similar to how police implemented Oplan Tokhang, the "house-to-house" search for COVID-19 cases is prone to abuse.

"Paano naman malalaman ng pulis na COVID positive nga ang isang tao kung asymptomatic nga o kaya ay mild ang symptoms? May dala ba silang PCR test? Malamang ay manghila na naman sila ng mga tao at dadalhin sa quarantine facilities tapos mali pala," Zarate said.

"They should junk this militarist Gestapo-like order and instead conduct true widespread mass testings and contact tracing then treat the identified COVID positives because these are the only scientific ways to stop the spread of this deadly disease," he added.

For her part, Bayan Muna party-list Representative Eufemia Cullamat said such plan only shows the inordinate response of the government to the COVID-19 pandemic, pointing out that a house-to-house search will only add to the fears of Filipino families that they will contract the disease.

"Yung may mga sintomas halos hindi na makapunta sa mga ospital o mga pasilidad dahil natatakot sila na mahawaan at kulang-kulang na na nga mga kagamitan medikal para sa pandemya. Bakit hindi nalang ang mga barangay health workers ang gumawa nito?" she said.

"Ito ay malinaw na madaling maabuso o mapagsamantalahan. At baka ang isang tao ay mawala o mapaslang tapos gagamitin nilang rason ay may COVID-19 infected o nanlaban," she added.

Gabriela Women's Party Representative Arlene Brosas echoed the statement of Cullamat, saying that this job is best left to barangay health workers and other medical personnel as mandated in the law on reporting of notifiable diseases.

"Sakit ang pagkakaroon ng COVID-19 at hindi dapat na ituring na krimen. Huwag paghaluin ung surveillance ng pulisya at disease surveillance, magkaibang-magkaiba yun," she said.

ACT Teachers party-list Representative France Castro also raised grave concern on the plan, pointing out that since policemen do not have medical training and testing, it is possible that they themselves would be superspreaders of the virus.

"At dahil maningning ang rekord ng PNP sa 'nanlaban' tactics at panonokhang, super spreader din sila ng human rights violations sa mga komunidad. Hindi lang COVID virus ang isasaboy ng mga pulis sa mga mamamayan kundi pati na rin ang abuso at karahasan," she said.

"Imbes na makatulong ay baka lalo lamang mapalala ng pag house-to-house ng pulis para maghanap ng mild at asymptomatic cases ang  dumaraming kaso ng COVID 19. Paano kung mismong pulis ang asymptomatic at sila ang nagkalat ng virus sa mga kabahayang pinuntahan nila?" she added.

Meanwhile, Kabataan party-list Representative Sarah Elago said the government should instead ramp up its efforts to support local officials and barangay health workers in empowering the people through education and information dissemination.

“Encouraging people to participate in the pandemic response at the community level should be based on facts, not fear, and trust, not terror,” she said.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, however, clarified that local health officials, not policemen, would lead in going house to house to search for confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Malacañang, on the other hand, said there will be no “house-to-house” search for COVID-19 patients, and that patients not qualified for home quarantine will only be reported and escorted to government quarantine facilities. — RSJ, GMA News