House-to-house search for COVID patients illegal, lawyers say

Published July 17, 2020, 1:59 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

An organization of lawyers on Friday opposed the government’s directive to have law enforcement go house-to-house to find and take persons infected with COVID-19, claiming it is unconstitutional.


In a statement, the Free Legal Assistance Group said the house-to-house measure defies the basic rule of Article 3, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution and should be recalled.

“This basic rule expressly forbids any intrusion into our homes without a search warrant issued only upon probable cause determined personally by the judge after examining the applicant and his or her witnesses,” it added.

The FLAG added the Data Privacy Act “protects sensitive personal information including information about an individual’s health.”

“The law prohibits the processing of sensitive personal information without the consent of the data subject, except when the processing is necessary for purposes of medical treatment, is carried out by a medical practitioner or a medical treatment institution, and an adequate level of protection of personal information is ensured,” the group explained.

The FLAG issued a statement after Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Ano said the Philippine National Police (PNP) will be helping locate and take persons with COVID-19 to isolation facilities.

Because of this, FLAG called on the government, through Ano, “to recall its directive to conduct ‘house to house searches’ and forcibly transfer symptomatic patients to isolation facilities, and to ensure safeguards against abuses, and protect citizen’s data privacy.

The group assured that it recognizes the need “in keeping the public safe from further COVID 19 infections through detection, contact-tracing, and treatment.”

“But this public interest must be carried out through a well-thought out national policy that is comprehensive, strategic, inclusive, data-driven, science-supported, and transparent; this policy must consider constitutional rights and guarantees as well as reasonable and effective measures for contact-tracing, detection, isolation, and treatment,” it stated.

Read more: LGUs, PNP to conduct house-to-house in search for suspected COVID cases