SC asked to compel gov’t to do ‘proactive’ mass testing, tell truth on virus fight
MANILA, Philippines — Citing their constitutional right to health, 11 individuals from various sectors urged the Supreme Court to compel the government to conduct “proactive” mass testing, ramp up contact tracing, and release accurate information about the country’s status in its fight against COVID-19.
“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,” the petitioners asserted in their 77-page plea.
The petitioners, led by former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, are composed of individuals representing senior citizens, medical doctors, scientists, LGBTQIA, migrant workers, students, teachers, jeepney drivers, frontline workers, professionals, and homemakers.
“It is the obligation and duty of the government, through its agencies, instrumentalities, and agents such as herein respondents, to protect the Filipinos’ right to health which is necessary to one’s fundamental right to life,” the added.
Named as respondents in the petition are Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, and Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez.
Except for Galvez, who is designated as the chief implementer of the National Action Plan against COVID-19, the respondents are officials and members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, the government’s policy-making body in the battle against the coronavirus disease.
The government has declared a lockdown in mid-March and the country is in various degrees of community quarantines for over a hundred days now – the world’s longest lockdown a country has so far imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19.
According to the government, the Philippines is winning the fight against the virus that was first detected in China’s Wuhan City, Hubei, in late 2019.
As of July 1, the Philippines has a total of 38,511 COVID-19 cases, of which 26, 803 are considered “active”. However, based on test results submitted by different accredited laboratories, the country’s positive cases already reached 50,077 although the Department of Health said these are still subject to validations to avoid duplication.
Bases and Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) Vince Dizon, the deputy chief implementer of the government’s response against COVID-19, earlier said the government’s testing capacity is at 50,000 but actual tests being conducted are only at 16,000. The 16, 000 figure is less compared to the number of arrests the government has made on quarantine violators, which is currently over 200,000.
“This petition raises violations of the rights to health by the continuing imposition of community quarantine without any clear plan to conduct mass testing, contact tracing, treatment and isolation as a precondition to the safe reopening of spaces,” petitioners said.
Since June, however, the government has started easing up quarantine measures in a bid to revive the economy.
Petitioners further expressed concerns over the “incomplete, inaccurate, and confusing DOH data” that are being used as basis of the COVID-19 policies.
“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 pointed out.
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.