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EDITORIAL - That silly deployment ban

(The Freeman) - April 13, 2020 - 12:00am

Last Friday some nurses heading back to the United Kingdom to resume their jobs were prevented from boarding their flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The reason? The Philippine Overseas Employment Agency said it has temporarily suspended the deployment of health workers abroad to “to support the national objective of controlling the spread of COVID-19”.

In short, the suspension order, decided by the POEA governing board last April 2, provides that the nurses have to stay here and wait until they are called upon should the government need their services in the fight against COVID-19. Make that if they are called upon.

This suspension order is ridiculous.

For one thing, the POEA doesn’t have the authority to restrict the nurses’ constitutional right to travel. And considering that these nurses are traveling to go back to their means of livelihood to be able to support themselves and their families, this cannot be considered non-essential travel.

For another, the POEA also just can’t tell the nurses to forget their jobs in the meantime and volunteer their services locally. Those nurses had jobs for which they signed contracts, they cannot just stop doing them without any serious repercussions.

According to the Filipino Nurses United, the nurses being withheld from boarding flights are also not part of any local COVID-19 effort, so it was wrong to stop them from getting on their flights.

This move by the POEA will not only put the jobs of the nurses in jeopardy due to possible violation of contract, it will also be detrimental to the families those nurses are supporting.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has called the order unconstitutional. The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) indicated that it may take up the issue in a meeting scheduled for today, according to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

Let’s hope the IATF settles this issue quickly, for the sake of those nurses and their dependents.

It’s not fair to make them sit and wait for orders that may never come and knowing that they have actual duties just waiting for them halfway around the world where they are just as badly needed.

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