Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa on Wednesday urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) to allow health experts to take the lead in the “Oplan Kalinga” program and thus avoid perceptions it is militarizing the government’s COVID-19 response efforts.
Dela Rosa, a former PNP chief, said it would be best if local government units (LGUs) and officials of the Department of Health (DOH) are mobilized for the program.
“Well, if the DOH and LGUs have enough manpower to do the house-to-house clearing of suspected COVID-19 patients in every barangay then the PNP’s participation can be reduced to providing security to the searching teams,” Dela Rosa said in a text message to reporters.
“It will be good for the PNP to avoid being accused again of militarizing the approach to a health issue despite the fact that PNP is a non-military organization,” he pointed out.
“It’s similarity with ‘Tokhang’ is that it is trying to address problems, drug and COVID-19, both of which have reached pandemic proportions,” the former top police official said.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) had earlier announced it will start conducting house-to-house visits to search for mild and asymptomatic COVID-19 patients and escort them to government isolation centers.
Other senators have also rejected the program, with opposition senators Franklin Drilon and Risa Hontiveros calling on the IATF to deploy more health workers and contact tracers for the program rather than employing “fascist”-like actions to curb the number of coronavirus disease cases in the country.
In a Kapihan sa Manila Bay online forum, Drilon urged the DILG to review what they are proposing “because it runs smack to the right of the people to be secured in their residences.”
“I would strongly suggest that, because it reminds us of operation ‘Tokhang.’ I urge a review of this system proposed by (Interior) Secretary (Eduardo) Año because it infringes on the right of the people under our Bill of Rights to be secured in their houses and against unreasonable searches and seizures,” the Senate minority leader said.
“There is no question that there is a need to protect the people but we should do it with due deference to the Constitution. The pandemic does not set aside the constitutional restrictions and protection under the Bill of Rights,” Drilon stressed.
Drilon said the fact that more people are expressing fears that this move can be used against critics is a “manifestation of the mistrust” between the public and the law enforcers.
“It is a manifestation of the mistrust. Because of what has happened in the past, you cannot blame the people if they fear that that it would be used to oppress,” he said.