Malacañang tries to allay fears about 'house-to-house' quarantine enforcement

Malacañang tried to dispel fears that the "house-to-house" enforcement of quarantine measures will be abused by government and will lead to a violation of citizens' rights.

In an interview on Wednesday, July 15, on ANC, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque denied that law enforcers would go "house-to-house" looking for persons who violate newly-announced rules on home quarantines.

"They will not go house-to-house, they will have to be reported by the individuals themselves, their family, or the barangay," said Roque.

But it was Interior Secretary Eduardo Año himself who used the term "house-to-house."

"What we will do, with the help of the LGU (local government unit) and the PNP (Philippine National Police), is we will go house-to-house and will bring the positive cases to our COVID isolation facilities," said Año on Tuesday, July 14, in Taguig City.

He was referring to mild or asymptomatic positive coronavirus cases who live in homes where it will be impossible for them to properly observe home quarantine rules. These rules require that the person have their own well-ventilated room and bathroom and that they do not live in the same household as a senior citizen, person with other diseases or health conditions, or pregnant women.

Año leads the Department of the Interior and Local Government which supervises both the Philippine National Police and local government units.

The move to require coronavirus cases to go to government-run isolation facilities if they have no means to properly self-isolate at home is dubbed Oplan Kalinga.

Roque explained the program this way on Tuesday: "Kung wala po talagang sariling kuwarto at walang sariling banyo, ang Oplan po ay sila na po ang susundo sa atin at magdadala po sa mga isolation centers."

(If you have no separate room or bathroom, in this Oplan, government will pick you up and bring you to isolation centers.)

But on Wednesday, he said the government "prefers" if asymptomatic and mild coronavirus cases "voluntarily surrender" so they can be confined in isolation centers.

Is this a violation of rights?

To defend the legal grounds of the order, Roque cited Republic Act No 11332 or the "Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act."

"The legal basis to bring the asymptomatic and mild cases without isolated facilities or with vulnerable living with them is still the inherent police power of the state. This is still promotion of public health," said Roque.

The law lists the following as a "prohibited act" under Section 9: "Non-cooperation of the person or entities identified as having the notifiable disease, or affected by the health event of public concern."

Article III of the Constitution, however, says citizens have the right "to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose."

It also says that the right to "liberty of abode" should not be violated "except upon lawful order of the court."

However, the right to travel can be curtailed "in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law."

What lawmakers like opposition senator Rise Hontiveros worry about is if the enforcement of Oplan Kalinga could lead to police abuses similar to those reported in the enforcement of Duterte's campaign against illegal drugs.

'Paid-for vacation'

To allay fears that Oplan Kalinga will be anything like Oplan TokHang, the name given to Duterte's drug war, Roque said the confinement of coronavirus cases would be like a "paid-for vacation."

"It's a paid-for vacation with air-conditioned facility. It's not as if they are brought to jails. They look like hotels!" Roque told ANC.

He also said the isolation facilities are "enticing" because they provide patients with free meals thrice a day, free Wi-Fi, and even "a graduation ceremony" after the 14-day quarantine period. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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