Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año today said the transfer to COVID Ligtas Centers or isolation centers of COVID-19 patients under the government’s Oplan Kalinga program is urgent and necessary not only to monitor and treat them closely but also for the good of the community.
“This move is plainly to ensure that COVID-19 patients will be attended to and that they will not spread the virus to their families and the community,” Año said.
“Kapag nasa Ligtas Centers sila, mas mababantayan at maaalagaan sila doon at higit sa lahat, maliit na ang chance na maikalat nila and virus sa kanilang pamilya,” he added.
He said that reports that the government will do “house-to-house search” to be led by the police or the military in police-type operations are fake news and is part of the disinformation campaign by unscrupulous individuals.
Año emphasized that coronavirus patients will be brought to Ligtas Centers as a precautionary measure to curtail transmission and, most importantly, to ensure that they are well taken care of as these isolation centers are equipped to handle their medical needs as opposed to practicing home quarantine.
He said that COVID-19 patients should not fear being placed under a COVID-19 Ligtas facility as all their needs, including their food, will be provided for.
“Ito ang siguradong paraan para mabantayan natin at matalo natin ang virus na ito.”
Home quarantine, on the other hand, he said, was seen to have been a contributory factor in the spread of the coronavirus in the community as some residences do not have dedicated areas to isolate their infected relatives, hence, leading to more cases.
“Ito po ay tungkulin ng inyong pamahalaan sa ating mga mamamayan na naaayon sa batas lalo na ngayong panahon ng krisis at tayo ay lumalaban sa isang pandemya. Makipagtulungan po tayo sa gobyerno dahil ang kapakanan at kalusugan ng buong komunidad na ang nakasalalay,” said the DILG Secretary.
He said that Republic Act No 11332 provides legal authority for quarantine and isolation purposes and penalizes non-cooperation of persons who have a notifiable disease or are affected by a health event of public concern.
According to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) President Domingo Egon Cayoso, “enforcing the law is part of the state’s power,” explaining that conducting house-to-house visits to find COVID-19 patients is by the law granting public health authorities the power to ensure quarantine and isolation.
Cayoso further explained that non-cooperation could be sanctioned by a fine of P20,000 to P50,000 and imprisonment of one to six months under RA 11332.
He said that patients who tested positive and are medically proven to be carriers and still refuse to be taken to Ligtas Centers are “actually committing a crime”.
“Under the warrantless arrest rule, puwede ho kayong arestuhin, pero hindi kayo dadalhin sa kulungan kasi maiinfect yung mga nandoon. Dadalhin kayo sa quarantine facilities,” Cayoso pointed out.
Meanwhile, Año emphasized that local health workers will not do “house-to-house” as not all households will be visited by the team headed by the local government unit’s (LGUs) Local Epidemiological Surveillance Units (LESU) “but only those listed in those COVID positive in the community,” he said.
“Hindi po natin uubusin ang oras ng ating LESU sa pag-isa-isa ng mga bahay ng mga tao. Ito po ay fake news. Tanging yung mga na-test po na positive na kasama sa kanilang listahan lamang at hindi makakapag-comply sa minimum requirement para payagang makapag-home quarantine ang ating dadalhin sa mga Ligtas Center,” he said.
A person is allowed to do home quarantine if he has a separate room where the patient can be confined; if the patient has his comfort room; and if he is not living with people who are vulnerable to COVID-19 such as senior citizen and immune -compromised individuals, among others.