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Supreme Court asked to order government to conduct free mass testing for COVID-19

Eleven individuals representing various sectors on Friday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to order the government to conduct free mass testing for COVID-19.

Assisted by the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL), the petitioners asked the highest Philippine court to ramp up contact tracing and rapid containment and improve laboratory testing capacity.

"The omission of proactive and efficient mass testing amid the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that a systemic and normalized violation of the right to health engenders the impairment of other human rights and liberties, such as the rights to travel, livelihood or work, education, and access to justice,” they said in a petition for mandamus.

The petitioners also want the government compelled to release "accurate, timely, and complete information" on the Philippines' COVID-19 situation.

“Without accurate and timely information on the extent of community transmission of COVID-19, the government lacks proper grounds for any policy pronouncement. These irregularities lessen the confidence of the public in the ability of the DOH (and government in general) to deal with the pandemic with transparency and integrity," they said.

The petitioners, who include former social welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo, represent senior citizens, medical doctors, scientists, the LGBTQIA community, migrant workers, students, teachers, jeepney drivers, frontline workers, professionals and homemakers, the NUPL said.

Named respondents to the petition were Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who are all part of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Peace process chief Carlito Galvez Jr., the chief implementer of the national action plan against COVID-19, was also tagged as a respondent. — RSJ, GMA News