COVID-19 patients are not criminals, Drilon cautions PNP chief
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Franklin Drilon on Friday said he was “deeply disturbed” by Philippine National Police chief Gen. Archie Gamboa’s recent remarks likening the house-to-house search for COVID-19 patients to “locating” criminals.
In a statement, Drilon said Gamboa’s pronouncement adds to the public’s fears and “fuels distrust” in the government and police authorities.
“Such a remark is uncalled for. It does not achieve anything but instill fear rather than trust in law enforcers and in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“I would like to caution PNP Chief Gamboa and all other officials to be more circumspect in their choice of words. The individuals afflicted with the virus are not criminals and they should not in any way be viewed as and compared to criminals. That is very wrong,” he added.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año earlier said that police officers and local government will be tasked to fetch COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms from their homes so that they can be transferred to monitoring facilities to avoid the further spread of the virus.
At a press conference in Camp Martin Delgado earlier this week, Gamboa likened the plan to “locating a criminal and when you have located one, you have to find his accomplices.”
“When a person suspected of contracting COVID-19 virus resists efforts to bring them to isolation facilities, what happens? Will there be a surge in ‘nanlaban’ (resisting arrest) cases again similar to thousand cases of nanlaban claims in operation tokhang?” Drilon went on.
The Senate minority leader said problems arise when the government “turns a public health issue into a law and order issue.”
“This COVID-19 pandemic is a public health issue and not a simple law and order issue. We must change our frame of mind: the enemy here is the virus, not the people,” he said.
He added that people who might have mild symptoms of COVID-19 would be afraid to come forward “not because they are criminals but they are afraid to not being able to work and provide for their family, and because of stigma and discrimination.”
Following Gamboa’s remarks, Drilon believes the people suspected of having contracted the virus may opt to go into hiding.
“What we should do is to instill trust and confidence in the campaign against COVID-19. If the government can assure their safety and the welfare of their families, then maybe they will come forward and even volunteer to be placed in isolation facilities,” the senator said.
“Rather than to threaten them with such remarks, let’s help them and their families,” he added.
To date, the Philippines has recorded over 61,000 COVID-19 cases in the country. Of the number, 1,603 patients have already died and 20,459 have recovered from the disease. [ac]
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