Sep 16, 2020 @ 12:54

Group laments SC dismissal of plea to compel the gov’t to conduct mass testing

The National Union of People’s Lawyers-National Capital Region on Wednesday said that the Supreme Court resolution rejecting pleas to compel the government to conduct COVID-19 mass testing has left the people’s right to health and to information up in the air.

“The Resolution dashes hopes that our inept and negligent government will be compelled to do its constitutional duty to protect and respect the people’s rights to health and information. For the half year that we have been placed under quarantine, we have not seen significant improvements in mass testing, contract tracing and isolation,” the group said in a statement.

The group lamented that the Duterte administration was just waiting for a coronavirus vaccine from other countries to come, instead of curbing the pandemic head on.

” Confirmed cases of COVID-19 are spiking once again while our medical frontliners and resources continue to be exhausted. The government is counting not on itself and what it can do to arrest the health crisis once and for all, but on coronavirus vaccines from other countries that have yet to come, ” it added.

Earlier, the high court dismissed a petition seeking to compel the government to conduct mass testing for COVID-19 in the country due to non-exhaustion of administrative remedies.

Also, the SC said the petitioners led former Social Welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo have failed to show that they are entitled for the issuance of a writ of mandamus.

“.. petitioners have recourse to the government offices which respondents represent, i. e., DOH, DND, DILG, DOT, DBM, DOLE, Office of the Cabinet Secretariat, and ultimately, the Office of the President. There is no showing in their Petition that they have exhausted administrative remedies,” the high court said.

In their petition for mandamus,
the petitioners also urged the high court to order the government to release accurate and timely information about the country’s COVID-19 situation.

“The omission of proactive and efficient mass testing amid the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that a systemic and normalized violation of the right to health engenders the impairment of other human rights and liberties, such as the rights to travel, livelihood or work, education, and access to justice,” the petitioners said.

Aside from Taguiwalo, the petitioners included doctors, scientists, students overseas Filipino workers, to name a few.

“Without accurate and timely information on the extent of community transmission of COVID-19, the government lacks proper grounds for any policy pronouncement. These irregularities lessen the confidence of the public in the ability of the DOH (and government in general) to deal with the pandemic with transparency and integrity,” they continued.

In their recently-filed manifestation , the petitioners urged the high court to give cognizance to their petition and order the respondents to file their comment.

Named respondents were Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

According to them, they filed their petition last July, but up now, the high court has yet to act on their petition.

“Clearly, the government through the DOH is not conducting enough COVID-19 tests nationwide,” they said.

“The government did not ramp up its mass testing efforts. There is no efficient system of contact tracing. Instead, the government reiterated that its strategy is to wait for the vaccine,” they added.

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