INDIVIDUALS who refuse to get swabbed for a coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) test can be arrested, warned Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Assistant Secretary Alexander Macario. They can also be charged.
Macario made the pronouncement during a press conference on Saturday, July 25, 2020.
He cited Republic Act (RA) 11332, or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, as the legal basis.
Macario, though, said the process will take time.
Should they resist, they will have to be swabbed “by force,” he said, citing DILG Secretary Eduardo Año.
“Again, Secretary (Año) said we can arrest them immediately and we can swab them by force because they pose a great danger to public health and safety of the community,” he said in a mix of Tagalog and English.
He hopes this will encourage the public to cooperate with barangay captains and contact tracing teams. Lack of cooperation has been a big problem for authorities, he said.
“Meron lang challenges na until now napakahirap ma-solve tulad ng ayaw magpa-swab (There have been several challenges that are hard to solve like people who don’t want to get swabbed),” Macario said.
He also said some individuals who get tested do not provide exact information like address and names, which makes the contact tracing difficult.
Based on the data of the Emergency Operations Center, 10 percent who get tested are considered missing since they cannot be located, he said.
He said these people are considered “most dangerous” since they can have the disease and spread the infection.
Macario said information and education campaigns will have to be conducted in the barangay level to change public perception.
“The public shouldn’t be afraid of the stigma attached to Covid-19 because they are endangering the majority of the community,” he said in a mix of Tagalog and English.
As of July 24, Central Visayas had a total of 14,931 Covid-19 cases.
Cebu City still has the highest number of cases in the region with 8,567, of which 4,847 have recovered. The remaining 3,265 are active cases.
Cebu City’s Covid-19 mortalities also climbed to 455.
Meanwhile, Regal Oliva, Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu chapter president, said the problem with RA 11332 is that it is subject to various interpretations.
He cited Section 9 (e), which states: “Non-cooperation of the person or entities identified as having the notifiable disease, or affected by the health event of public concern.”
Oliva said one interpretation is that it has to be established that the person is infected with the disease.
“The prosecution offices’ interpretation though refers to two situations: non-cooperation of a person or entity identified as having the notifiable disease (meaning positive) or non-cooperation of entities or persons affected by the health event of public concern which the law defines as (g) health event of public health concern refers to either a public health emergency or a public health threat due to biological, chemical, radio-nuclear and environmental agents,” he said.
Oliva said it will pass the test of police power.
“Of course, abuses and excesses in the enforcement and implementation is a different matter. Same way as curtailment of such other constitutionally protected rights -- travel, freedom of religion etc. In fact, the Supreme Court itself in its recent circular is promoting testing. In some cases, it is even mandatory,” he said. (JJL / WBS)