As authorities struggle to implement measures to control the spread of the contagious COVID-19, the government has ordered for the public disclosure of patients with confirmed cases of the disease for contract tracing purposes.

“The IATF adopts the policy of mandatory public disclosure of personal information relating to positive COVID-19 cases to enhance the contact-tracing efforts of the government,” said Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases spokesperson Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

Nograles also mentioned that the Department of Health and the Office of Civil Defence will follow a data-sharing agreement in accordance with the Republic Act No. 10173 or the Data Privacy Act, which mandates that protection of the privacy of individuals while ensuring and regulating free flow of information.”

However, concerns over possible discrimination instances and privacy violations arise as the DOH is yet to identify the extent of patients’ data to be shared.

“Lilinawin po ito sa IATF ano ba iyong extent ng disclosure ng information patungkol sa pasyente, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

It also remains unidentified and unclear as to how the government will plan to properly collect and store the data of the patients to avoid unnecessary leakage. It can be recalled that the Philippines, particularly websites of government agencies with sensitive data of its beneficiaries, have repeatedly become prey to hacking incidents.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has also called for the government to protect the patients’ right to privacy. According to lawyer and CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia, proper guidelines should be implemented to defer from privacy violations.

“Protecting public health entails protection of other rights as well which are equally essential to the genuine fulfillment of the highest standard of the right to health. Clear parameters must be outlined to ensure that it will not overstep the right to privacy,” de Guia said.

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