By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte is well within the bounds of the Constitution if he decides to stop Filipino medical workers from going abroad as the country fights the coronavirus diseases (COVID-19) pandemic, Malacañang said.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after Duterte said Monday that he will discuss with Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra if it was legal to stop Filipino health workers, particularly doctors and nurses, from going abroad to work.
In an interview over ANC, Roque said stopping health workers from going overseas is an exercise of President Duterte’s police power.
“Perfectly legal. In fact, that’s pursuant to the general welfare clause,” he said Wednesday morning.
“It is an exercise of police power because the primary basis for the President’s concern is that these people are going to the most dangerous places as far as COVID-19 is concerned,” he added.
Roque said it was only natural for the government not to allow health workers from going to countries like the United States, Spain, and Italy since ordinary Filipinos are also prohibited from doing so due to the high number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the said countries.
“If we are restricting travel to these places, why are we allowing them now to work in these places?” he said.
“I think it’s a valid exercise of police power but he’s still exploring it. That’s why he’s asked the Department of Justice to look into the matter,” he added.
“At the same time, of course, there’s the matter of how about our own needs. So we are also looking into that particular reasoning as a valid exercise of police power, as well,” he continued.
Last week, the Department of Health (DOH) reported that 1,694 health workers from at least 11 facilities tested positive for COVID-19.
In a late-night public address on Monday, President Duterte expressed his desire to prohibit Filipino health workers to work abroad. He, however, asked for the understanding of medical frontliners, saying he was only thinking of their welfare.
“Please don’t misunderstand me. I am making it clear now. I do not want you to go there and come back in a coffin. That’s my only argument, if you may because you are Filipinos at mahal ko ang mga buhay ng mga kababayan ko (and I love my countrymen),” he said.