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CHR seeks careful handling of COVID-19 patients info

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) called on the government to use information on COVID-19 patients strictly for public safety reasons, and to properly compensate Filipino healthcare workers employed abroad who were prevented from leaving the country.

Lawyer and CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia made the pitch in connection with two government policies recently adopted: the mandatory disclosure of personal information of COVID-19 cases to enhance contract tracing efforts, and the deployment ban of overseas healthcare workers to address the shortage of healthcare personnel amid the enhanced community quarantine due to COVID-19 threat.

These policies, de Guia said, were susceptible to overreach in terms of guaranteeing the right to privacy and freedom to choose gainful employment, respectively.

“Protecting public health entails protection of other rights as well which are equally essential to the genuine fulfillment of the highest standard of the right to health. Clear parameters must be outlined to ensure that it will not overstep the right to privacy,” de Guia said.

“Given the reports on stigmatization and attacks directed towards COVID-19 suspects and cases as well as front liners, it is the obligation of all personnel involved to respect and handle with utmost respect and confidentiality the data gathered,” de Guia added.

As to the ban on deployment of Filipino healthcare workers abroad, the CHR said that a commensurate salary for them must be on the table, given that this was the primary reason they chose overseas opportunities and that this sector had sought consideration given the efforts and expenses of those who were already set for employment and the impact to those with existing contracts in foreign countries.

“Free choice of employment is a constitutionally guaranteed right. Instead of limiting this right, a more competitive and equally favorable option can be provided for our health care professionals to keep them here during this crisis and in the long run,” de Guia pointed out.

“In our effort to address the severity of the situation on collective scale, we must be careful not to utilize sweeping measures that may lose sight of the human persons that are in the middle of this struggle,” she added.

The Philippines has recorded 4,932 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of 4 pm today, April 13. Of this number, 315 have died while 242 others recovered. — DVM, GMA News