EDITORIAL - Oplan Kalinga
EDITORIAL - Oplan Kalinga
(The Philippine Star) - July 16, 2020 - 12:00am

There were conflicting messages yesterday as the government worked out the mechanics of a house-to-house search for mild or asymptomatic cases of coronavirus disease 2019. Those in charge of the COVID-19 pandemic response want the patients to be separated from their household members and quarantined in appropriate facilities if the dwellings lack the space for proper isolation.

Malacañang gave assurance that there would be no “militarization” of the move, dubbed Oplan Kalinga, as it defended the measure. Officials have stressed that under COVID health protocols, only mild or asymptomatic patients who have rooms at home with en-suite facilities can undergo home quarantine.

Because of the government’s brand of law enforcement, however, concerns have been raised over the involvement of police in the house-to-house search. Several lawmakers, lawyers and human rights advocates have stressed the constitutionally guaranteed right of people to be secure in their homes. They point out that inspecting a house for the availability of a room with its own toilet and bath for isolating a COVID patient will require a search warrant.

Officials have reassured the public that no force or unwarranted intrusion would be employed, and that patients would be encouraged to voluntarily transfer to isolation facilities. At the same time, however, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said there would be “massive extraction” of thousands of such patients for transfer to appropriate isolation facilities.

Amid the concerns, the government said barangay and health personnel would be tasked to track down the patients, with police merely providing support for extraction. The Department of Justice said it was not consulted on Oplan Kalinga.

Some officials have explained that home quarantine is impossible in cramped households. The officials point out that there is a high risk of infecting other family members and, in congested communities, even neighbors.

The devil will be in the implementation. There is reason for public concern. Apart from the selective implementation of quarantine rules, there have been egregious abuses by state forces. In Ilocos Sur, two policemen face charges for allegedly raping and molesting two teenage curfew violators, one of whom was subsequently shot dead. In Quezon City, a retired Army corporal was also shot dead at a police checkpoint.

In trying to transfer mildly infected COVID patients to isolation facilities, it’s good to remember that curbing a viral contagion is best achieved with public cooperation rather than through coercion and the use of force.

COVID-19
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