Gov’t vows to press charges vs. persons harassing COVID-19 patients, health workers

Published April 4, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Agyll Geducos

The government will not allow any form of harassment and discrimination against health workers and coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients, warning those who commit such actions that they will be hunted down and charged.

In his virtual press briefing on Saturday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases strongly denounces “in the strongest terms” acts of discrimination inflicted upon those affected by the pandemic.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)

These persons include healthcare workers; overseas Filipino workers (OFWs); and COVID-19 patients, whether confirmed or suspected, recovered or undergoing treatment, as well as patients under investigation (PUIs) and persons under monitoring (PUMs).

“Nakakalungkot po na kailangan pa natin sabihin ito (It’s saddening that we still have to say this),” Nograles lamented.

Nograles said the IATF has received reports of health workers, OFWs, suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases being abused or harassed.

“Some nurses are being evicted from their apartments though they have contracts. Some recovered COVID-19 patients are not allowed to enter their village (and go home. Some OFWs are being rejected by their hometowns because they came from countries with confirmed cases. An ambulance driver was even shot because he was transporting COVID-19 cases,” he said in Filipino.

“Kinokondena ito ng IATF at binabalaan po namin na kakasuhan po namin ang mga taong mapapatunayang gumagawa nito (The IATF condemns these acts and we are warning those proven to have committed them that we will press charges),” he added.

Nograles said the discriminatory acts include, coercion, libel, slander, physical injuries, and the violation of contractual obligations such as contracts of lease or employment.

“[These] shall be dealt with criminally, civilly, and/or administratively,” he said.

Nograles likewise urged local government units to issue the necessary executive orders and enact ordinances prohibiting and penalizing the said discriminatory acts.

“Sana po mag-issue sila ng ordinansa na magpapataw ng parusa sa ganitong mga gawain (I hope that you will issue ordinances that will punish these acts),” he said.

“Kung sasaktan natin ang ating mga healthcare workers sino ang mag-aalaga sa atin? Hindi naman ganyan ang Pilipino, eh (If we will inflict harm on our health workers, who will take care of us? Filipinos are not that kind of people),” he asked.

“Nakakalungkot lang isipin na sa krisis na ito, dito lumalabas ang (tunay na) ugali ng tao (It’s sad to think that our true colors are coming out in this time of crisis),” he added.

Nograles said he understood that some people are probably scared of contracting the virus but he said they should not lose their sense of empathy for their fellow human beings because of it.

“Alam namin na marami sa inyo ay takot, ‘di lang para sa sarili niyo kundi para sa inyong mga pamilya (We know most of you are scared for yourself and for your families). But we should not let our fear bring out the worst in us,” he said.

“Hindi po ito panahon para talikuran ang kapwa nating Pilipino––ito ay panahon para magmalasakit, magtulungan, at magkaisa (It’s not the time to turn our backs on our fellow Filipinos. It is s the time for compassion, cooperation, and unity),” he added.