Statement of CHR Spokesperson, Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia, on recent COVID-19 measures that impact the right to privacy and free choice of employment
At this stage of the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID) pandemic, we are seeing the steady growth of confirmed cases, the increasing number of deaths, and the growing challenges that beset our public health system. In this context, we recognize the urgency of implementing restrictive measures to address the gravity of the situation.
However, as we have previously stressed, protecting public health entails protection of other rights as well, which are equally essential to the genuine fulfilment of the highest standard of the right to health. There are clear guidelines in ensuring balance in protecting public health while respecting human rights based on international law as well as domestic laws. Under the Siracusa Principles—a guide to government response for reasons of public health or emergency—the measures must be proportionate to the attainment of clear objectives, least intrusive and restrictive available, respectful of human dignity, among others.
Two recent pronouncements of the government—disclosure of personal information of COVID-19 cases to enhance contract tracing efforts and deployment ban of overseas healthcare workers to address shortage of healthcare personnel—are susceptible to overreach in terms of guaranteeing the right to privacy and freedom to choose gainful employment respectively.
On the disclosure of personal information, while the government clarified that this shall be done in accordance with the Data Privacy Act, clear parameters must be outlined to ensure that it will not overstep the right to privacy. We recognize the importance of contract tracing to contain the virus, but it must be done with utmost care for privacy and confidentiality.
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