Inventory of unvaxxed lawful, DILG tells Makabayan solon

<p><em>(File photo)</em></p>

(File photo)

MANILA – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Friday slammed leftist lawmaker France Castro of the Makabayan Bloc for calling the Department’s directive urging all barangays in the country to prepare an inventory of unvaccinated individuals as a “witch-hunt” even as it assured the Commission on Human Rights that the program will never violate the individual’s right to privacy.

“To call the President’s directive as well as the ordinances passed by the LGUs as a witch-hunt is completely irresponsible and uncalled for. We are facing an unprecedented global health emergency and we need to protect the unvaccinated. Again, the purpose of the inventory is to protect the unvaccinated from getting sick and dying as well as to protect our health care system from being overwhelmed. How is that a witch hunt?,” DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said in a news release.

“Moreover, it is neither unconstitutional nor violative of a person’s right to privacy because the data of unvaccinated persons is being collected for a legitimate purpose and that is to address the latest wave of Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) infection under Alert Level 3,” he added.

Malaya said Castro’s statement that “the DILG is imposing a policy that is unconstitutional and violative of a person’s right to privacy” has no basis as he said that the policy is within the bounds of Republic Act (RA) No. 10173 or the "Data Privacy Act of 2012" and RA No. 11332 or the "Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act”.

Kailangan pong timbangin ang karapatan ng isang tao at ang kanyang pananagutan o responsibilidad sa lipunan (We need to strike a balance between a person's right and his/her responsibility to the society). Rep. Castro should not be so swift in shooting down the efforts of the national and local governments and calling them unconstitutional or unlawful without knowing the rationale behind the policy,” he said.

Malaya also assured the Commission on Human Rights that the inventory will not be published or released to the public and will only serve as a reference by the barangays in implementing the ordinances passed by LGUs.

Malaya said that RA 11332 is related to RA No. 10173 which allows the processing of personal information for a legitimate purpose.

Section 7 of RA 11332 provides that the President shall declare a State of Public Health Emergency in the event of an epidemic of national and/or international concern which threatens national security in order to mobilize governmental and non-governmental agencies to respond to the threat.

Malaya said that the ongoing status of state of calamity in the country is related to Section 12 (e) of Data Privacy Act that provides one of the conditions when it is permitted to process personal information, which is when it is “necessary in order to respond to national emergency, to comply with the requirements of public order and safety, or to fulfill functions of public authority which necessarily includes the processing of personal data for the fulfillment of its mandate”.

“In this regard, the data identifying unvaccinated individuals is needed by the State to properly implement quarantine protocol needed to protect the unvaccinated as well as to protect the health system from being overwhelmed,” he said.

President Duterte’s Proclamation 1218 on September 10, 2021, extended the validity of the state of calamity for one more year, or until Sept. 12, 2022, due to the Covid-19 pandemic following the recommendation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Kaya malinaw po na walang paglabag sa batas o sa privacy ng mamamayan sa paghimok sa mga punong barangay na gumawa ng imbentaryo ng mga ‘di pa bakunado kontra Covid-19 (This is why it is clear that there is no violation of the law or of privacy of the people in encouraging village chiefs to conduct an inventory of those who are unvaccinated against Covid-19). The government’s intent is not to harm them but protect them and nudge them towards vaccination and to promote the general welfare and public health,” he said.

Malaya said that the roster of the vaccinated population can also help local government units (LGUs) identify and convince those unvaccinated to get vaccinated at the earliest possible time.

“We stand by our call to our barangay chiefs. We need to identify the unvaccinated to protect everybody. The goal of the DILG is to protect people’s right to health at sa paglobo ng mga kaso ngayon, iyon ang pinakamahalaga (that's what is important especially with the surge in cases now),” he said.

Malaya said the Supreme Court has also laid down in jurisprudence that Section 15 of Article II of the Constitution which says that “the State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them” is self-executing and judicially enforceable even in its present form.

“The policy on restricting the unvaxxed is very much in line with the Constitutional State policy on people’s right to health. We hope to instill to them the consciousness of their adverse effect to our national and local governments’ effort in beating the pandemic,” he said.

He likewise addressed Castro’s statement that the government should focus on listing citizens who lost their jobs because of the pandemic and the families in need of financial aid or ayuda.

“The government has not turned a blind eye to the needs of the people ever since the pandemic began. We have disseminated billions of public funds to assist our kababayans. Alam po ng ating pamahalaan ang kaukulang tulong kapag naghihigpit ng Alert Level para sa kabutihan ng nakararami (Our government knows how to provide due assistance whenever there is a strict Alert Level, for the welfare of the majority).”

The national government’s latest allotment for ayuda amid the pandemic was a total of PHP11.2-billion of cash assistance giving PHP1,000 per low-income individual with a maximum of PHP4,000 per low-income family affected by the enhanced community quarantine in the National Capital Region from August 6 to 20, 2021.

Meanwhile, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año on Friday said persons violating the coronavirus disease-2019 (Covid-19) isolation regulations may be arrested for failure to comply with the health protocol guidelines set by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Año made this comment when asked what awaits stubborn individuals who should be serving their quarantine requirements for being either Covid19 positive or in close contact with the persons afflicted with the virus.
He also stressed that negligent and errant local government unit (LGU) officials may face raps over their poor or unsatisfactory enforcement of the IATF approved quarantine protocols in their respective jurisdictions.

“Covid positive persons who are violating isolation/quarantine protocols may be arrested and charged with violation of RA (Republic Act) 11332 and local ordinances. LGU officials particularly barangay officials who fail to implement this may also be charged with RA 11332 and administratively charged with negligence and dereliction of duty,’’ Año said in a message sent to the Philippine News Agency, referring to Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act. (PR/with Lloyd Caliwan)