Saving lives
HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes (The Philippine Star) - June 28, 2020 - 12:00am

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, case investigation and contact tracing, a core disease control measure employed by health department personnel for decades, is a key strategy in preventing the further spread of COVID-19.

The Duterte administration launched last month its so-called T3 program, or Test, Trace and Treat. Contact tracing therefore, together with testing and treatment, is crucial to government’s response to the pandemic.

Contact tracing is defined by the World Health Organization as a system to detect and isolate cases and identify close contacts who will be advised for quarantine. It allows the investigation system to track the chain of infections as well as the settings, places, events or other avenues where transmission has occurred or may have been amplified.

As early as April, Staysafe.ph, an online-based contract tracing app for COVID-19, was launched and is set to be turned over and donated to the Department of Health by its developer, Multisys Technologies Corp., next month. Online-based apps like Staysafe help the government augment its human contact tracing efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 infection.

The app is recognized by Malacañang as the country’s official social distancing, health condition reporting, and contact tracing system.  Multisys CEO David Almirol Jr. said the app was developed to save lives.

Staysafe’s function, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, will be limited to the collection of data, which will be stored in DOH’s COVID KAYA, a case and contact tracing reporting system for epidemiology and surveillance officers. The data collected will be owned by government.

Unfortunately, the app, has been criticized by former DICT Undersecretary Eliseo Rio who claimed he was eased out of government and forced to quit after raising questions over Staysafe’s supposed limitations.

Rio said Staysafe did not undergo comprehensive vetting by DICT, despite the fact that the department evaluated the app when he was still undersecretary.

The app was vetted by  multiple technical experts, and  several technical workshops and meetings were held to discuss and evaluate its capabilities.

Rio also claims that the IATF did not approve StaySafe when no less than the National Task Force on COVID-19, the implementing body of the IATF,  had approved the use of the app.

The IATF has also declared it as the official  contact-tracing app for COVID-19.

According to reports, Rio was first supportive of Staysafe but he later opposed it after the Staysafe team rejected his lobby for the app to accept or support a third party.

Roque pointed out that Rio’s proposal for a third party was ignored because it still needed to develop its technology or own app. Meanwhile, the IATF had to make a decision quickly and decided that the only available technology then was Staysafe.ph.

After he failed to get his way, Rio is now saying that Staysafe is inadequate and useless and that the government needs multiple contact tracing apps to do the job of detecting possible COVID-19 cases.

But experts say that accrediting multiple contact tracing apps would only result to redundancy and further delay the work of the DOH in providing up-to-date information. A unified and centralized system is the only system that will ensure  successful online contact tracing.

The former DICT chief is also saying that Staysafe app works only on 3G-capable phones, but  Staysafe’s developer are saying they can come up with one that can run on 2G phones.

Multisys has developed digital platforms used by over 2,000 companies in the country and by 200 local government units.

According to Staysafe.ph’s website, there are now around 1.15 million users of the app. It would help a lot in the fight against this dreaded disease if we can all do our part and join this community-driven contact tracing, health condition reporting, and social distancing system succeed.

Students call for justice

Several female students of De La Salle University in Taft and their parents are asking the school to prevent one student, who claims to be a scion of a prominent political clan in Masbate, from graduating after he was identified as the one who installed his phone inside the female bathroom/shower area to take videos of naked students.

The case for voyeurism has been pending with the DLSU Student Disciplinary Formation Office since the complaints were filed last April 14. In its letter last June 24, Disini Law pointed out that while it is understandable that said office is still conducting its investigation, the complainants are asking that his application for graduation be denied even while hearings/investigations are going on since allowing him to graduate this semester may put at risk or render futile efforts exerted to hold him accountable for his actions.

The mobile phone used for the voyeuristic acts is now with the National Bureau of Investigation which is conducting its own investigation. Fortunately, one female student who was using the shower saw the camera and took it to the authorities before the culprit had the chance to use the videos.

His acts are considered major offenses both under the DLSU’s Student Handbook and constitutes video voyeurism punishable under Republic Act 9995. Video voyeurism under the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009 includes catching an image of the private area of a person without the latter’s consent, under circumstances in which such person has reasonable expectation of privacy. It is punishable by imprisonment of from three to seven years and/or a fine of between P100,000 to P500,000

For comments, e-mail at mareyes@philstarmedia.com

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