MANILA, Philippines— The Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) is urging local government units (LGUs) to issue executive orders or ordinances prohibiting and penalizing acts of discrimination and attacks against health workers, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and COVID-19 patients amid the ongoing coronavirus disease crisis.
“[The IATF-EID] denounces in the strongest of terms acts of discrimination inflicted upon healthcare workers, OFWs, COVID-19 cases – whether confirmed or suspected, recovered or undergoing treatment, as well as patients under investigation (PUIs) and persons under monitoring (PUMs),” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said in a briefing held Saturday.
“Local government units are enjoined to issue the necessary executive orders and ordinances prohibiting and penalizing these discriminatory acts,” Nograles added.
Nograles stated that acts of discrimination, such as, but not limited to, coercion, libel, slander, physical injuries, and the dishonor of contractual obligations such as contracts of lease or employment “shall be dealt with criminally, civilly and/or administratively.”
The said order on LGUs comes as reports of cases of discrimination against health workers were recorded in the past weeks.
“Nakakalungkot po na kailangan pa natin sabihin ito (It is saddening that we even have to say this),” Nograles said.
On Thursday, an ambulance driver in Candelaria, Quezon was hurt after a subdivision resident with a gun, fired into the ground after an argument with the driver. The hand of the ambulance driver, Sofronio Ramilo, was hit by debris caused by the ricocheting bullet, as per police report.
The resident, Ramil Alcantara, reportedly insisted that the ambulance not be allowed to enter the subdivision for fear that the patients inside will infect the residents. Contrary to the suspect’s argument, however, the ambulance was only actually taking medical staffers of the Peter Paul Medical Center of Candelaria Inc., and not patients.
In Cebu, a male nurse was attacked with chlorine by unidentified assailants on March 27, while a hospital employee from Tacurong City was attacked with bleach by five unidentified men. The Cebu nurse’s colleague, a doctor, claimed that even before the imposition of an enhanced community quarantine over the city, nurses from their hospital were being refused to board public utility vehicles.
Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia meanwhile threatened to take legal actions against those who discriminate against frontliners, especially health workers, after receiving reports that a subdivision in Bogo City in northern Cebu was planning to draft a petition seeking to bar the entry of hospital workers. In Iloilo, landlords have told nurses, resident doctors, medical technicians and even security guards of a hospital to leave their boarding houses, while eateries have also refused to serve frontliners.
“Kinukundena po ito ng IATF, at binabalaan po namin na kakasuhan po namin ang mga taong mapatunayang gumagawa nito,” Nograles stressed.
(The IATF condemns these acts, and we are warning all of those who will be proven guilty of such actions that we will press charges against you.)
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