SC asked: Compel government to conduct mass testing, release accurate COVID-19 data
A group led by former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo file a petition before the Supreme Court to compel the Philippine government to conduct free mass testing, ramp up contact tracing and rapid containment.
JUCRA/Pool
SC asked: Compel government to conduct mass testing, release accurate COVID-19 data
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - July 3, 2020 - 9:54am

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 10:34 a.m.) — A group of 11 Filipinos from different segments of the society, led by former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, asked the Supreme Court to compel the government to conduct mass testing and release accurate and timely information on the country’s COVID-19 situation.

Taguiwalo and ten others filed a Petition for Mandamus on Friday before the SC to direct the members of the Duterte cabinet to conduct mass testing, citing violations to the Filipino people’s rights to health and right to information.

The former DSWD secretary is joined by a community doctor, molecular biologist, former migrant worker, learner, jeepney driver, workers and a mother.

“Petitioners assert that it is the obligation and duty of the government, through its agencies, instrumentalities and agents such as herein respondents, to protect the Filipinos’ right to health which is necessary to one’s fundamental right to life,” they said.

They asked the SC to direct the government “to conduct proactive mass testing, efficient contact tracing, and isolation and effective treatment of positive cases.”

The government earlier said they aim to test 1.5-2% of almost 110 million population, but latest data from the Department of Health showed that as of July 1, only 696,765 individuals have been tested for COVID-19.

The petitioners identified the following as respondents in their petition:

  • Health Secretary Francisco Duque III
  • Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles
  • Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana
  • Interior Secretary Eduardo Año
  • Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade
  • Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado
  • Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, also chief implementer of the National Action Plan against COVID-19
  • Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III

Violation of rights to health and information

The petitioners asserted that the continuing enforcement of community quarantine—already the longest in the world—raised violations of the rights to health.

President Rodrigo Duterte first imposed a Luzon-wide lockdown on March 15, and ran for two months before he ordered gradually easing health protocols. The lockdown also forced millions of Filipinos to be restricted to their homes, except for travels deemed essential, otherwise people heading out the streets risk arrests. 

“This petition raises violations of the rights to health by the continuing imposition of community quarantine without any clear plan to conduct mass testing, contact tracing, treatment and isolation as a precondition to the safe reopening of spaces,” their plea read.

The group pressed that due to the lockdown, schools and businesses ended up closing. Many also could not go to work and earn a living since public transportation was halted. 

They also argued that “there is palpable breach of the right to health arising from the continuing community quarantine without any concrete action on the part of the government to conduct mass testing, contact tracing, treatment and isolation. Its refusal to provide complete, accurate and timely data also violates the petitioners’ right to information.”

The petitioners said that they find the DOH data release on COVID-19 “severely lacking and, at times, misleading.” They noted that experts from the University of the Philippines discovered “alarming errors” in DOH data last May.

Data is lacking too. The group said that the following data should be included in DOH releases to create better epidemiological models: onset of symptoms, history of exposure, co-morbidities, if the confirmed case is a medical frontliner, date when specimen was collected and actual case of validation backlog.

“Delayed reporting provides a false sense of security that the number of cases is falling. It also fails to paint an accurate picture of the crisis. It lends credence to charges of covering up incompetence and inefficiency,” they added.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the country reached 38,805 as of Thursday, July 2. Fatality count is tallied at 1,274 while 10,673 have so far recovered from the coronavirus disease.

MASS TESTING NOVEL CORONAVIRUS SUPREME COURT
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: August 3, 2020 - 7:14am

A thread of major news, developments and government pronouncements related the extended community quarantine across the country. Real-time updates about the coronavirus outbreak in the Philippines are available in this live blog. (Main image by AFP/Ted Aljibe)

August 3, 2020 - 7:14am

President Rodrigo Duterte approves the recommendation of Cabinet members to place Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal under modified enhanced community quarantine.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says the new quarantine measures will be imposed starting midnight of August 4 and will stay in place until August 18.

June 29, 2020 - 12:32pm

The inter-agency task force on COVID-19 imposes a moratorium on the transit of locally stranded persons in Western Visayas, Cebu island, Mactan, Eastern Visayas and Caraga.

"Wala na po silang lugar para mag-quarantine," IATF spokesperson Harry Roque says in a virtual briefing. 

(They have no place to undergo quarantine anymore.)

June 28, 2020 - 4:29pm

The Department of Health announces 485 "fresh" COVID-19 cases on Sunday, June 28.

Another 168 are "late" cases, or "released to patients four days ago or more."

Most of the cases are still from the National Capital Region, with 245 "fresh" and 111 "late."

Central Visayas accounts for 120 "fresh" cases and 11 "late" ones. 

June 4, 2020 - 4:10pm

The National Bureau of Investigation's Death Investigation Division has filed murder and perjury complaints at the Department of Justice against Police M/Sgt. Daniel Florendo and four others over the killing of former soldier Winston Ragos.

Complaints of planting of evidence have also been filed against Florendo and Police S/Sgt. Hector Besas.

Ragos was killed, allegedly in self-defense, in Quezon City on April 21 after a confrontation over quarantine protocols. Florendo shot him, saying the former soldier was reaching for a gun. 

A video of the incident showed Ragos had already turned his back to Florendo when he was shot a second time.

May 19, 2020 - 7:59pm

The Department of Foreign Affairs announces that the Philippine Embassy in Yangon repatriated 91 stranded and distressed Filipinos to Manila on Monday through a special chartered Air Asia flight.

"Some of the repatriates were stranded in Yangon due to flight cancellations. Others lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19- related restrictions thus leaving them economically vulnerable to continue living in Myanmar," says the DFA in a statement.

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