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Palace says it's 'perfectly legal' to stop migration of Filipino health workers

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Palace says it's 'perfectly legal' to stop migration of Filipino health workers
Photo dated April 11, 2020 shows healthcare frontliners at the Sta. Ana Hospital.
The STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — Stopping the migration of health workers to protect them from the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 is "perfectly legal," Malacañang said Wednesday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said preventing the departure of health workers to shield them from the virus is a valid exercise of police power.

"Perfectly legal. In fact, that's pursuant to the general welfare clause. It is an exercise of police power because the primary basis for the president's concern is that these people are going to the most dangerous places as far as COVID-19 is concerned," Roque told ABS-CBN News Channel.

"Of course, if we are restricting travel to these places, why are we allowing them now to work in these places? I think it's a valid exercise of police power but he's still exploring it. That's why he's asked the Department of Justice to look into the matter," he added.

Roque noted that some of the possible destinations of health workers including the United States, Italy, and Spain are among the countries with the most number of pandemic cases.

"At the same time, of course, there's the issue of how about our own needs? So we are also looking into that particular reasoning as a valid exercise of police power, as well," he added.

Last Monday, Duterte ordered the justice department to look into the legality of stopping Filipino health workers from migrating to countries affected by COVID-19.

"The problem, I said, is we’ll have to look into this again. It has to be this week. Maybe two days from now, we’ll have to meet again and consult legal, (Justice) Secretary (Menardo) Guevarra whether or not it would be legal for us to just stop the migration of health workers simply because they are being taken in in a place where is there is so much (risk)," the president said.

"Please do not misunderstand me. I am making it clear now. I do not want you to go there and come back in a coffin. That’s my...only argument if you may because you are Filipinos and I love the life of my countrymen," he added.

Last month, the government suspended the sending of healthcare workers abroad to ensure that the Philippines has enough manpower in its fight against COVID-19.

Workers groups had opposed the policy, saying it prevents health workers from looking for better opportunities abroad, violates the right to travel and promotes involuntary servitude.

The government then amended the restriction and allowed those with perfected and signed overseas employment contracts as of March 8, 2020 to leave. 

2019 N-COV NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
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