By Ellson Quismorio
Lawyer-congressman Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro backed on Tuesday President Duterte’s statement that the government’s deployment ban on heath workers was constitutional.
“I support the statement of the President last night (Monday) when he took a contrary view to that of [Foreign Affairs] Secretary [Teddy Boy] Locsin [Jr.] who is against the ban, stating that the latter’s view would be right only during ordinary circumstances when the country is not facing a pandemic,” Rodriguez said.
Locsin had earlier slammed the April 2, 2020 order of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) in temporarily suspending the deployment of Filipino health care workers abroad.
Locsin claimed that the directive violates the right to travel and is thus unconstitutional, to which the Cagayan de Oro 2nd district representative disagreed.
“It is definitely constitutional to temporarily prohibit Filipino medical workers from leaving our country and going abroad during this time of a declared public health emergency,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said that although the Constitution guarantees the right to travel, such right “is subject to some exceptions such as when the country faces a clear and present danger to our public health because of COVID-19.”
He said the 1987 Charter itself, in Section 5 of the Bill of Rights (Article III), prescribes the limitation.
“Neither shall the right to travel be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety or public health, as may be provided by law,” the Mindanaoan quoted the section as saying.
Rodriguez pointed out that Republic Act (RA) No. 11469, the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, and Presidential Proclamation No. 922, in which President Duterte declared a state of calamity throughout the country due to COVID-19 “are the legal basis for the POEA deployment ban on our medical workers.”
He also lauded Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello lll and the POEA “for their concern for the Filipino people by promulgating the temporary ban on our healthcare workers.”
Rodriguez noted that as of Monday, the country had 4,932 confirmed cases of the deadly illness.
“More [cases] are expected because of the planned mass testing. We need all our healthcare workers here to help address the pandemic in our country,” he said.
In its meeting Monday, the government’s task force on the COVID-19 pandemic reportedly relaxed the deployment ban by allowing those with existing contracts to go back to their jobs.
Last March 30, Rodriguez urged Bello to impose a temporary deployment ban after reading a news report that a group of German hospitals was sending a plane to Manila to ferry 75 Filipino nurses with intensive care unit experience to care for their COVID-19 patients.
It was not clear if the supposed “recruitment flight” was allowed. At least nine Filipino nurses in Germany have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.