The planned house-to-house search for COVID-19 cases in the country to be conducted by the police, along with local government and health officials, has been described by Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday like the controversial “tokhang,” a strategy used in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
“Parang tokhang pero pang-COVID. This may actually discourage more people from reporting their status. We need to improve home- and community-based healthcare,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
“Imbes na pulis, mas kinakailangan ang mga doktor at health workers sa barangay at mga kabahayan. We need more and better barangay-based healthcare, not this,” she added.
Hontiveros’ remarks came after Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Tuesday said police will be part of the house-to-house search for asymptomatic and mild cases of COVID-19 who need to be transferred to isolation facilities.
Home quarantine is only advised for patients who have their own room, own bathroom, and are not living with people vulnerable to the disease.
However, Año clarified on Wednesday that local health officials, not the police, would lead the search.
“Ang ating kapulisan naman ay mag-a-assist lang sa kanila para sigurado na ma-implement ang lockdown at sigurado din na maayos naman ‘yung paglilipat ng ating mga positive patients,” he said.
Año underscored that the step is in line with Section IV (f) of Republic Act 11332 or the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.”
For his part, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday agreed that the measure was legal and supported the move to transfer mild and asymptomatic cases to quarantine facilities.
“In terms of law may batas tayo, communicable law in which kapag ganyang positive ka, puwede kang dalhin kung ano ang protocol,” Gatchalian said in an interview with Super Radyo dzBB.
“I don’t think kulang tayo sa batas. Ang importante lang clear sa tao ang protocol,” he added.
However, Gatchalian suggested a change in policy so that police and local government employees will no longer have to exhaust limited resources and risk their own health going house-to-house to fetch COVID-19 cases.
“The best way to do it is kung nag-test at positive, dalhin na kaagad, huwag nang pauuwiin,” he said.
Gatchalian added that home quarantine should not be allowed even for mild and asymptomatic cases.
“Dapat they should not allow home quarantine and mandate isolation centers. Mandatory talaga, mandatory talaga. Hindi tayo puwedeng maging malambot sa isolation. Kung hindi, magkakahawahan,” Gatchalian said./Stacy Ang