Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año on Wednesday dismissed claims of “militarization’’ stressing that local health officials, not the police, will be at the forefront of “Oplan Kalinga’’ or the house-to-house search for COVID-19 patients with mild or no symptoms and place them in government isolation facilities.
“The police will just assist local health authorities so I don’t understand why they think this way. That is pure speculation,” Año said.
“Again, I wish to emphasize that the PNP’s presence in the conduct of the said program is purely for support and assistance to the LGUs who are taking the lead in defeating COVID-19 in the communities,” he added.
Año emphasized that Republic Act 11332, “An Act Providing Policies and Prescribing Procedures on Surveillance and Response to Notifiable Diseases, Epidemics, and Health Events of Public Health Concern,” specifies that collaboration with law enforcement is encouraged “to protect the people from public health threats.”
He explained that Section 4 of the said law states that one of its objectives is expanding collaboration beyond traditional public health partners such as law enforcement entities.
The DILG chief said that fears of “militarization’’ is unfounded as the house visit for COVID-19 patients are within the bounds of the law.
Año said that employing the assistance of the police in the transfer of COVID-19 patients from the households to the isolation facilities is not a “unique exercise’’ in the Philippines.
Even in Vietnam, Año said, this practice is employed and drastically reduced the number of COVID-19 cases in that country.
Año said LGUs and public health authorities will lead the process since they are the experts in this matter.
“Pati’ yung resulta ng contact tracing, pati kung sino ‘yung i-tetesting, ililipat o ire-refer sa ospital (Even the result of the contact tracing and those who will be tested or those who will be transferred or referred to the hospital),” he added.
Given that health experts will lead the transfer, Año said households were already identified and local health teams have the list of the said COVID-19 patients.
He said the patients will be assessed if they can comply with the minimum requirements to be permitted to practice home quarantine.
Año assured that no rights will be violated as the police officers’ presence will be limited to assisting in transporting patients and ensuring that lockdowns are imposed.
According to Año, a household is allowed to do home quarantine if it has a separate room where the patient can be confined, if the patient has his/her own comfort room, and if he/she is not living with people who are vulnerable to COVID-19 such as senior citizen and immunocompromised individuals.