MANILA - A lawyers' group on Tuesday expressed concern over the government's plan to carry out house-to-house searches for mild and asymptomatic COVID-19 patients, saying this police-centered approach to solve a public health emergency is worrying and disturbing.
"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 is worrying and disturbing," the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) said in a statement.
The lawyers' group takes exception to "Oplan Kalinga," which aims to transfer patients to temporary isolation facilities that could be under-resourced to deal with the virus, because it can be prone to abuse.
"With a government that has emboldened its own uniformed personnel to violate human rights with impunity, how can we be sure that the police will not abuse this new power to intrude into the privacy of our homes and encroach upon our liberties, targeting those who have been vocal with their grievances and criticisms of the government's callous neglect of the people's livelihood, health and lives?" NUPL said.
"In reality, what is prone to abuse is not home quarantine but this unnecessary power of the police to conduct home visitations," it added.
Meanwhile, a youth sectoral party also condemned the plan, saying what the country needs is a scientific and health-based approach to stem the spread of COVID-19.
“There’s no way this is helping the fight against COVID-19; this is helping the Duterte administration reinforce its hold on power, establish a police state, and normalize militarism. What we need now is to step up efforts to support the local officials and barangay health workers in empowering the people with education and information about community-based management of COVID-1,” Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago said in a statement.
“Encouraging people to participate in the pandemic response at the community level should be based on facts, not fear, and trust, not terror,” she added.
Elago noted that the Philippine National Police (PNP) carried out "Oplan Tokhang," which is President Rodrigo Duterte's centerpiece policy against illegal drugs that resulted to the deaths of thousands of drug suspects.
"Instead of pursuing mass testing, giving ample aid to the people who need it, Duterte interest himself in other matters not essential to solving the pandemic," she said.
In a press briefing in Taguig City, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the police, together with local government units, will bring COVID-19 patients to isolation facilities.
"Ayaw na po natin mag-home quarantine ang mga positive natin kung wala naman po talagang kapasidad 'yung kanilang bahay," he said.
To date, the number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines reached 57,545, with 634 new infections reported Tuesday. The tally includes 1,603 fatalities and 20,459 recoveries.
- With a report from Jerome Lantin, ABS-CBN News