Solon says ban on health care worker deployment constitutional but…


THE TEMPORARY ban on the deployment of health care workers abroad is constitutional, Albay. Rep Edcel C. Lagman said.

“The temporary ban on overseas employment of doctors, nurses and other health care workers imposed…on April 2, 2020 because of the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic is constitutional. However, the ban must be coupled with adequate compensation and other benefits to medical professionals and workers who volunteer to be in the frontlines against the viral menace,” he said in a statement on Monday.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) approved the temporary suspension of health workers to ensure that the country has enough medical workers amid the public health emergency.

According to Mr. Lagman, the rights to travel and non-impairment of contracts are “not absolute and are subject to restrictions or limitations which the State may enforce in exercise of its police power.”

He added, however, that the government must negotiate with the host countries to preserve the employment contracts of the affected medical professionals and workers during the imposition of the deployment ban.

“The enforcement of the ban on foreign deployment of migrant workers has been duly delegated by the legislature under the established standards of national interest or public welfare to the POEA Governing Board. With respect to the imposition of the ban, the Department of Foreign Affairs has to be merely consulted but it has no veto power over the decision to terminate or ban foreign employment,” Mr. Lagman said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. has expressed opposition to the policy and vowed to lobby for its withdrawal before the government’s COVID-19 task force. — Genshen L. Espedido

Gov’t to issue data sharing guidelines for COVID-19 patients

THE GOVERNMENT is still preparing guidelines on data sharing to ensure privacy protection for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients following its announcement of the mandatory reporting of personal and health information.

In a briefing Monday, Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) Spokesperson Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said the use of patient information and privacy security in consideration of public welfare is a “delicate balancing act” that is still being discussed by the task force.

He assured that the Department of Health’s (DoH) guidelines will respect both Republic Act 10173 or the Data Privacy Act and Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.

He explained that patient information will mainly be shared with government enforcement agencies and other authorities for the purpose of contact tracing and policy making.

“We’re not asking the patient to disclose to the public. We’re asking them to disclose to the DoH,” Mr. Nograles said.

“The DOH will be coming up with guidelines… So in the IATF meeting today and the next IATF (meeting), hopefully, the DoH will finalize the guidelines regarding data sharing and contact tracing and using of the mandatory disclosure of patients regarding personal information,” he said. — Gillian M. Cortez

Senate, DSWD rebuff proposal to reduce cash aid for more beneficiaries

THE SENATE and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) opposed moves by local governments to halve the P5,000-8,000 monthly emergency subsidy to cover more beneficiaries amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said the set monthly subsidy per low income household is already a small amount.

Bakit ibaba, kung kaya ‘yung (Why lower it if we can afford) P6,000 and P8,000? Ang liit na nga noon (That is already a small amount),” he told reporters over phone message on Monday.

He insisted that the government has enough funds for the subsidy program and noted that the problem lies in identifying the target beneficiaries.

“Their (local governments’) problem is identification and info dissemination.”

Some local government units (LGUs) have reportedly distributed subsidies lower than the range provided in Republic Act No. 11469, the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

The law mandates a P5,000-8,000 monthly subsidy for two months for low-income households, which will vary based on the regional minimum wage rate.

DSWD Spokesperson Irene B. Dumlao likewise said they are not supporting the lowering of the subsidy, citing that the amount has been determined to fund the basic needs of each household.

“We discourage ‘yung paghahati ng (the division of the) emergency subsidy fund,” she said during the Laging Handa virtual briefing Monday. “Itong amount na ito ay pinag-aralan at ito ang nakita na close approximation na kakailanganin ng isang pamilya para ma-meet ang pangangailangan sa isang buwan (This amount was studied and determined to be in close approximation of what each family will need to meet the basic monthly needs),” Ms Dumlao said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Roque returns as Presidential spokesperson

LAWYER Herminio “Harry” L. Roque is returning as the President’s spokesperson effective April 14, the Palace reported Monday.

“The Palace confirms that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has offered the position of Presidential Spokesperson to Atty. Harry Roque who, in turn, has accepted the same,” outgoing Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement.

Mr. Panelo, meanwhile, will continue as the President’s legal counsel, which he juggled along with his spokesperson duties from October 15, 2018 to April 13, 2020.

Mr. Roque was first appointed by Mr. Duterte in November 2017, staying in position for almost a year.

Mr. Panelo said the changes were decided upon with the country under a national state of calamity due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis. “The present crisis requires a new tack in messaging,” Mr. Panelo said. — Gillian M. Cortez