BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The National Democratic Front–Negros and the militant group Bayan-Negros slammed the house-to-house search for COVID-19 patients by the Philippine National Police, saying it is counter-insurgent, anti-people, and an active state terrorism.
But the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) clarified that it will be the local health workers who will lead the “Oplan Kalinga” or the transfer of COVID-19 positive patients from their homes to government quarantine facilities and the police will only be there in a supporting role.
DILG Secretary Eduardo Año vehemently dismissed claims of militarization since the military will have no role in this effort.
“The police will just assist local health authorities so I don’t understand why they think this way. That is pure speculation,” Año said in a statement issued yesterday by the DILG.
NDF-Negros spokesperson Ka Bayani Obrero said in a statement that it is not the job of law enforcers but that of the public health sector to conduct these types of actions.
“The execution would be questionable as to how state forces could identify patients of the aforementioned nature,” Obrero said.
In the guise of tracing COVID -19 patients, Bayan-Negros likened Oplan Kalinga to the PNP Oplan Tokhang campaign that claimed thousands of innocent lives in the bloody war on drugs to counter-insurgency operation through Oplan Sauron in SEMPO 1 and 2 in Negros island.
Año said that Republic Act 11332 or “An Act Providing Policies and Prescribing Procedures on Surveillance and Response to Notifiable Diseases, Epidemics, and Health Events of Public Health Concern, “specifies that collaboration with law enforcement is encouraged to protect the people from public health threats.”
Section 4 of the said law states that one of its objectives is expanding collaboration beyond traditional public health partners such as law enforcement entities, he stressed.
Año further said that police assistance in the transfer of COVID-19 patients from their households is not a unique exercise in the Philippines, stressing that Vietnam is also employing the same practice which helped drastically in minimizing transmission in the country.
He said that the local government unit (LGU) through its Local Epidemiological Surveillance Unit will be the one to visit the households with COVID-19 patients.
Obrero, on the other hand, said in statement that “these warrantless searches are all too familiar, as the AFP-PNP have already done it during Oplan Tokhang, Oplan Sauron, and even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Año assured the public that no rights will be violated as police officers’ presence will be limited to assisting in transporting patients and ensuring that lockdowns are imposed.
He also urged the public’s cooperation by reporting households with confirmed COVID-19 cases and are currently practicing home quarantine despite not having the appropriate facilities.*