With Republic Act 11055 or the Philippine Identification System Act still not ready for implementation, it is not easy for the government to trace ordinary citizens who tested positive for COVID-19, as well as those who were directly exposed and symptomatic. Making the job harder is the Data Privacy Act of 2012 (R.A. 10173), which protects the right to privacy and non-disclosure of medical records of patients.
As an admitted oversight of Congress, the recently enacted Bayanihan to Heal As One Act (R.A. 11469) does not authorize the President to direct the disclosure of COVID-19 patients.
But if public figures like Prince Charles, Boris Johnson, Tom Hanks, Christopher de Leon and several of our own legislators had voluntarily and publicly declared they are or were infected, maybe it is time for the “man on the street” – the ordinary Filipinos – to do the same in order to alert those who they had interacted with to take the necessary measures, so that the infection does not spread further.
If their identities are made public voluntarily, even through their barangay bulletins, homeowners’ associations or any social media platforms available, then people who they directly got in contact with can come forward to be tested and treated if needed.
As an elected Senator of the Republic, I appeal to our citizens to practice that selfless act of responsibility to society and do our part in hastening to flatten the curve by thwarting the spread of the virus even in our own little way.
COVID-19 may not be like the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), where there is social stigma attached to the afflicted because it is sexually transmitted in most cases. Nevertheless, it does not diminish the threat that COVID-19 poses not only to those vulnerable but those around them.