Lorenzana hits move to stop quarantine protocols for senior citizens

National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 chairperson Delfin Lorenzana slammed Tuesday the filing of a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) which sought issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the enforcement of quarantine protocols for senior citizens.

Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

Lorenzana said freedom is "not absolute" especially when the government also needs to prioritize public welfare at a time of health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think 'yong (the) freedom natin is not absolute. We have to balance individual freedom and the general welfare of the community," said Lorenzana during the inauguration and ceremonial turnover of the Solaire-PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation) mega quarantine facility in Paranaque City.

Last September 24, lawyer Eugenio Insigne filed before the SC a petition to stop the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Managing Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) from imposing quarantine restrictions on senior citizens amid the on-going pandemic, saying it was "illegal and unconstitutional," and a "violation" of the elderlies' human rights.

The SC is yet to take up the petition filed by Insigne.

In his petition, Insigne argued that the quarantine restriction on senior citizens is a violation of Republic Act 7432 or the Senior Citizen's Law as amended by RA 9257 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2003; and RA 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 since it was imposed supposedly without the consent of the affected individuals and, thus, denied their right to due process.

Insigne also said that the quarantine affects one's mental and psychological health, as he suggested it may have a possible link of elderly people's increased vulnerability to the disease. He reportedly cited studies conducted by medical experts from London which showed adults aged 50 to 81 subjected to social isolation is independently associated with reduced physical activity and increased sedentary lifestyle.

He then asked the SC to determine the legality and constitutionality of the omnibus guidelines on the implementation of the community quarantine. 

It prohibits individuals aged 21 below and 60 above, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidity and other health risks, and pregrant women to remain in their residence except when it is for essential travel such as buying goods or for work in permitted industries and offices.

"Quarantine is a very restrictive measure. It isolates senior citizens," said Insigne, who served as the chairman of the National Commission of Indigenous People (NCIP) from 2008 to 2010.

However, Lorenzana maintained that the quarantine protocol was put in place to restrict the movement of people and effectively curb the spread of the virus.

"People don't want to be isolated because according to them it's a violation of their personal freedom but at the same time they're also infecting people. We have to also take care of the welfare of the community as against the freedom of one individual," he stressed.