The 14-day quarantine lockdowns in the Metro Manila granular areas is just being enforced as a measure to contain the transmission of the dreaded coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) Delta variant, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año insisted on Monday, Sept. 20.
Año noted that “the DILG is just enforcing both the spirit and the letter of Republic Act (RA) No. 11332 which is meant to protect the public from health threats and to promote and protect the right to health of the people.’’
“Because of the Delta variant, the government needs to undertake decisive, quick, and aggressive measures to put an end to this pandemic that we have been battling for a year and a half now,’’ Año said.
He maintained that the strict measures being imposed by the government in areas under granular lockdowns such as the mandatory testing or 14-day quarantine (period) are not meant to be punitive but to contain and prevent further transmission of the coronavirus.
“Sa panahon ngayon, hindi puwede ang patumpik-tumpik. Kailangan ang mabilisang desisyon at aksyon kasi ganoon din kabilis kumalat ang (COVID-19) Delta variant (In this time, we do not have to be tentative. What is needed is immediate decision and action since the Delta variant also spreads very fast),’’ he added.
The DILG ran into controversy when Vice-President Leni Robredo criticized the department on Sept. 19 for giving sanctions on individuals refusing the RT-PCR tests.
Stressing that swab test dodgers should not be penalized, Robredo noted that the DILG should instead provide incentives in case people do not want to undergo the procedure.
“Napakahirap na nga ng buhay ngayon. Kung sana mas mag-exercise ng empathy at mag-intindi kung ano ba dahilan kung bakit may resistance (swab testing) doon (Now are difficult times. It is better to just exercise empathy and understand why there is resistance to that),’’ Robredo said.
Under Section 9 of Republic Act (RA) 11332, Año explained that “non-cooperation of infected (positive cases) persons and affected (exposed or close contacts) persons in a pandemic shall be meted with penalties because they are endangering the lives of other people.’’
“Non-cooperation means for the positive patient to refuse to be isolated and the close contact refusing to undergo swabbing or testing or mandatory 14-day quarantine if he or she does not want to be tested. The mandate of the DILG is clear. We do not aim for punishment but in fact we have been encouraging 14-day quarantine for those not willing to take a swab test,” Año said.
“We wish to assure the public that the department practices reasonableness, empathy and consciousness of the conditions on the ground kaya nga po ang payo ay magquarantine kung ayaw magpa-swab test. Ang pagka-quarantine ay pinapayo rin mismo ng batas (that is why the advice is to be placed under quarantine if you do not want to undergo swab testing. The law also proposed quarantine measures),’’ he added.
Passed into law in April 2019, RA 11332 is aimed at establishing effective mechanisms for strong collaboration with national and local government health agencies to ensure proper procedures are in place to promptly respond to reports of notifiable diseases and health events of public health concern, including case investigations, treatment, and control and containment including follow-up activities.
The DILG chief pointed out that the implementation of the law must not be misconstrued, distorted or used against law enforcement but rather be held on a higher priority standard and executed as intended by Congress.
Año said that to imply that the government and the DILG are disconnected from the plight and challenges faced by the Filipinos especially by the poor and marginalized is farthest from the truth.
He also urged the public, especially those in the areas under granular lockdowns, to cooperate with the protocols set by the government saying they are “designed to help mitigate the COVID-19 situation of the country and not to burden the people.’’