By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
The Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases assured the public that the government will find a way to protect the information that will be obtained from confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients.
Cabinet Secretary and IATF spokesman Karlo Nograles made the statement after it was announced that the national government has ordered the mandatory disclosure of the personal information of COVID-19 cases to make contact-tracing easier.
In his Monday virtual press conference, Nograles said the Department of Health (DOH) will have to harmonize Republic Act (RA) 11332, the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases, and RA 10173, the Data Privacy Act, to ensure the protection of the obtained information and to prevent stigma against COVID-19 patients.
“Ang mag-repository ng lahat ng information na yun ay ang Department of Health. Sa Department of Health, kumbaga, sila yung safe-keepers nung information at ayon din po ito sa National Privacy Act na batas (The DOH will be the repository of all these information. They will be safe-keepers according to the Data Privacy Act),” he said.
“Gagamitin ng Department of Health ang information na ito para gumawa ng tamang polisiya at tamang mga aksyon (The DOH will use this information to craft the right policies and actions),” he added.
Under the Data Privacy Act, a person’s health condition is classified as sensitive personal information that can only be used with the consent of the person or patient.
According to Nograles, the said information will be shared with law enforcers who will help the DOH and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) conduct contact-tracing.
“Kailangan i-share niya yung mga information na yun para matulungan siya ng mga LGU, at ng ating Philippine National Police (PNP), at iba pa nating law enforcement agencies, para tulungan po ang gobyerno, ang pamahalaan sa contact-tracing (The DOH needs to share the information to local government units, the PNP, and law enforcement agencies to help the government do the contact-tracing),” he said.
“Pero sa lahat ng bagay na ito–data-sharing, contact-tracing, at lahat ng iyan–ay kailangan mananatili pa rin po ang Data Privacy Law natin (But with all these things–the data-sharing and contact-tracing–we still need to abide by the Data Privacy Law),” he added.
Nograles said COVID-19 patients cannot refuse to disclose their information to the DOH as this is against the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases Act.
“Kailangan po talaga yung mga pasyente mag-disclose ng accurate and truthful information sa Department of Health. Kung hindi po mag-reveal or mag-share ng information yung mga pasyente ay mapapahamak po siya. ‘Yan po ang nakasulat sa batas (The patients have to disclose accurate and truthful information to the DOH. They will be in trouble f they won’t share information. That is what the law says),” he said.
“Nakalagay din po sa batas na ito (Based on the law), [RA] 11332 Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases, anybody who does not cooperate, anybody who conceals, eh mananagot (will answer) with the full force of the law,” he added.
Concealment, not government policy
Nograles reiterated that it was not the government’s policy to conceal information after it was reported that a hospital was ordered to stop counting COVID-19 deaths.
“It’s not government policy to conceal. In fact, hinihingi nga natin sa ating mga pasyente na (we are even asking patients to) to reveal all possible information,” he said.
“Concealment is not a government policy. In fact, we want more openness, candor, honesty, and truthfulness here. Because the more truthful people are, including patients, mas makaka-react po tayo ng tama (we can respond better),” he added.