By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is “deeply concerned” about the alleged privacy violation committed by the Calamba City Police back on March 23 when they released the names and addresses of individuals who came in close contact with a late judge suspected of coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19).
CHR Spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said that contract tracing is a key component in containing the spread of the virus. However, it is still important that the process is done with utmost respect, privacy, and confidentiality.
This is why it came as a shock when the Commission learned that the names of people who had close contact with a judge who passed away last March 21 made its way around social media.
The judge was suspected of having COVID-19. On March 23, the Calamba City Police disseminated on social media a contact tracing memorandum containing the names as well as addresses of individuals who allegedly had close contact with the late judge.
“We denounce this glaring violation on the right to privacy, which consequently exposes the individuals to stigmatization and discrimination,” said de Guia. “The individuals also now suffer from mental anguish because of circulating false news that they are already positive with COVID-19. We note that even the late judge’s test result has not been released yet.”
The CHR cited R.A. 11332, which is the law on reporting communicable diseases. It provides that all personnel conducting disease surveillance should respect the right to privacy and confidentiality while ensuring public health and security.
“All individuals who are being monitored of COVID-19 has the right to anonymity to protect their privacy and to shield them from any attack or discrimination,” stressed de Guia. “Personal information and data should be collected for public health purpose solely and must be respected and handled with utmost care in accordance with the Data Privacy Act and as specified in RA 11332.”
By publishing personal and sensitive information on social media for contract tracing purposes, de Guia said the individuals concerned have been exposed to risks that denigrate their identity, privacy, and dignity.
“This grave violation of privacy must be investigated and those responsible should be prosecuted to ensure no further breaches will taint our collective efforts to fight COVID-19,” she said.
For its part, the CHR will likewise conduct an investigation for the resolution of the alleged violation.#