Earlier today, Malacañang clarified that they will not be conducting a house-to-house check for COVID-19 patients in the country contrary to Department of the Interior and Local Government secretary Año’s statement yesterday. Instead, the police will only assist people who are unable to isolate themselves at home and transport them to government quarantine facilities.
In an interview, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque clarified that they don’t have a provision for a house-to-house search. Patients who want to be transferred to quarantine facilities will have to be reported by their family, members of the community or local government units.
“We don’t have a provision for house-to-house. Only the political critics of the government, again, weaponizing this very important task of tracing. They will not go house-to-house,” Roque said.
For COVID-19 patients who prefer to stay home instead of isolating themselves, Roque noted that transferring patients is still part of the “inherent police power of the state” and that they prefer asymptomatic and mild cases to voluntarily surrender and isolate themselves. He also noted that the quarantine centers are air-conditioned and are medical facilities with doctors and nurses.
“Anywhere in the world, ’pag merong quarantine, meron dapat i-quarantine, puwede ’yan kunin ng gobyerno. Let’s not make a big issue out of it especially when we know that studies already indicate that this virus may have already mutated and it’s even more contagious,” Roque said.
This clarification was made after Año announced yesterday that Philippine National Police (PNP) with the help of LGUs will be going house-to-house to check if anyone is asymptomatic and transfer them to a monitoring facility.
The Department of Health (DOH) also noted that home quarantine is still an option for people, provided that they follow protocols such as having your own room and bathroom at home. If these cannot be followed, the patient should be brought to a monitoring facility.
Various groups have also expressed concern about the house-to-house search. The Commission on Human Rights added a forced search and entry without a determined probable cause is illegal. Entering people’s homes and forcing them to transfer to an isolation facility under the guise of health and safety should be avoided.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers added that allowing the police to conduct home visitations is an unnecessary power to grant and that this is more prone to abuse.
“Although we are calling on the government to apply the find, test, treat and isolate strategy, arming law enforcers with another tool to sow fear in our communities and trample on our rights—with a draconian Terror Law in the horizon—is worrying and disturbing,” their statement reads.
Header photo courtesy of Bacoor PNP Facebook group
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