Constitution ‘allows’ quarantine if it’s a matter of public safety

PLACING people in quarantine is not necessarily a violation of human rights.

This was the reaction of Leo Villarino, chief of the investigation division of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) 7, to the commotion at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) on Feb. 12, 2020, when 78 Filipino passengers who arrived from Taiwan refused to follow the quarantine order because “they could not accept the suddenness of the temporary ban involving Taiwan.”

“It is rightful for our government to institute measures to protect public health,” Villarino told SunStar Cebu.

The Bureau of Quarantine has been mandated to place Filipino passengers coming from China and its special administrative regions in a 14-day quarantine following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in Wuhan City, Hubei province in mainland China.

The passengers tried to go home, resulting in a standoff.

Villarino cited Article 3, Section 6 of the Philippine Constitution: “The liberty of abode and of changing the same within the limits prescribed by law shall not be impaired except upon lawful order of the court. Neither shall the right to travel be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety or public health, as may be provided by the law.”

The Philippine government imposed travel restrictions, which included barring Filipino nationals from traveling to Taiwan. The ban also covers the entry of all travelers, except Filipino citizens and permanent resident visa holders, who come directly from Taiwan, or have been there within 14 days preceding their arrival in the Philippines.

Villarino pointed out that Covid-19 is a worldwide issue that threatens public safety and health.

Meanwhile, the MCIA said it was making travel arrangements for Filipino travelers from Taiwan who were bound for Davao City but made a stopover in Cebu.

Airport Authority General Manager Steve Dicdican said he talked to Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia about the passengers’ plight and the need to send them home to Davao City.

“She committed today (Thursday, Feb. 13). We worked it out. Those who live in Davao and some parts of Mindanao who were quarantined are now on the way to the airport and will board a flight around 9:30 p.m. today,” he said Thursday.

Dicdican said their travel was approved by the Department of Health (DOH).

Sixteen of the passengers hail from Davao City while the rest come from other parts of Mindanao.

Dicdican estimated that more than 30 Cebuano passengers have been placed in home quarantine.

“It’s just that their processing took a long time and they became combatant. They couldn’t wait for the process to be completed. Quarantine officers had to check their homes if these were viable for quarantine. They had to make sure there were no children, elderly or the sick,” he said.

As of Thursday, the DOH 7 announced that there had been no additional positive cases of Covid-19 in the region or in the country.

DOH 7 Director Jaime Bernadas said the three previously reported positive cases--the 38-year-old woman, her 44-year-old male companion and the 60-year-old woman, all Chinese nationals—had been in Cebu.

Bernadas, in a text message sent to SunStar Cebu, said 27 patients under investigation (PUIs) were still in the hospital, while 124 persons under monitoring (PUMs) were either placed in a home or a quarantine facility.

He said some PUIs had already been discharged after testing negative of the Covid-19. PUMs who completed the 14-day quarantine who were cleared were also released. Bernadas, however, could not give consolidated figures as of press time.

The health official said they are trying to convince those who refuse to be placed in quarantine to follow guidelines implemented in ports of entry.

He said they are making arrangements with the affected persons’ respective municipal health officers, local government units and the Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (Resu) so they can be placed in home quarantine.

Bernadas said hospitals were instructed to attend to patients with flu-like symptoms. He said if a patient has recently traveled to countries with Covid-19 positive cases, the hospital must report it immediately to the Resu.

“Hospitals cannot turn away patients. They must attend to the sick since that is their mandate,” Bernadas said in Cebuano. (JCT, JOB, WBS)


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