By Noreen Jazul
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) defended its decision to temporarily ban the deployment of Filipino health workers abroad, saying a person’s right to travel “will always take a backseat” when it comes to the general welfare of the people.
POEA Administrator Atty. Bernard Olalia said a person’s right to travel is “not absolute.”
“Ang general welfare po natin ang pinaka importante, lalo na meron po tayong state of public health emergency (Our general welfare is what’s most important, specially now that we are in a state of public health emergency),” Olalia told DZMM on April 13, Monday, when asked to comment about Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddyboy Locsin Jr.’s statements agains POEA’s deployment ban.
“Meron po tayong batas na sinusunod tungkol diyan at meron po tayong desisyon, meron tayong jurisprudence. Ang sinabi po ng Supreme Court doon, inuphold yung karapatan ng government na tinatawag na police power against the right to travel ng isang individual (We have a law regarding that, and we have a decision, there is jurisprudence. The Supreme Court upheld the government’s right, called police power, against the right of an individual to travel),” he added.
Locsin earlier slammed POEA for its directive, decrying it as an “abomination.”
“The fight is not over. We will fight the ban in the IATF. We will fight the ban in Cabinet. […] We will never surrender our constitutional right to travel and our contractual right to work where there is need for our work,” Locsin tweeted on Saturday, April 11.
Olalia, meanwhile, assured health workers that the deployment ban is only temporary and the agency is not taking away their rights to work abroad.
The POEA chief pointed out that the directive was made to prioritize the “allocation of human resource.”
“Ang sinasabi po natin meron pong pandemic sa Pilipinas. ‘Pag hinayaan po natin silang umalis, hahayan din po natin ‘yung ibang kategoriya na maka-alis, lalo na yung government-to-government hires po natin (What we’re saying is there’s a pandemic in the Philippines. If we allow health workers to leave, that means we also need to allow worlers falling in other categories to leave, especially those who are government-to-government hires),” Olalia said.
POEA in its April 2 resolution temporarily halted the deployment of the following healthcare professionals, “until the national state of emergency is lifted and until the COVID-19-related travel restrictions are lifted at the destination countries.”
- Medical doctor/physician
- Molecular biologist
- Clinical analyst
- Respiratory therapist
- Laboratory technician
- X-ray/radiologic technician
- Nursing assistant/nursing aid
- Operator of medical equipment
- Supervisor of health services and personal care
- Repairman of medical-hospital equipment