COVID-19 patients who withhold info face penalties

April 13, 2020

CNN Philippines — Patients who refuse to disclose truthful information to the Department of Health in relation to their COVID-19 treatment will face penalties, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Monday.

Nograles, spokesperson for the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, reiterated in his virtual media briefing that the mandatory disclosure of vital information is in accordance to the Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.

"Nakapaloob sa batas na iyon, sa violators of this act, may kaso po," the Cabinet Secretary said.

"Hindi po sila puwedeng mag-refuse to disclose information," he stressed. "Kailangang magsabi sila ng totoo."

Under the law, any person who fails to report information about any notifiable disease that is of public concern will be fined up to ₱ 50,000 or face up to six months of jail time.

The DOH will serve as the repository of all personal data, but it was not made clear how much personal information must be disclosed to the agency for now.

Nograles said RA 11332 was the same law used as basis of President Rodrigo Duterte to place the Philippines under a state of public health emergency last month over the increasing number of COVID-19 cases.

Gov't will be 'mindful' of patients' privacy

The DOH will soon issue corresponding guidelines on proper disclosure and harmony of necessary provisions on data privacy.

RA 10173 or the Data Privacy Act protects the right to privacy and non-disclosure of medical records of patients.

On Sunday, Nograles said the IATF-MEID has adopted the policy of mandatory public disclosure of personal information relating to COVID-19 cases "to enhance the contact tracing efforts of the government."

The Office of Civil Defense will lead the contact tracing efforts, in coordination with the DOH.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police, local government units, and other concerned authorities must also coordinate among each other in utilizing information on contact tracing and other necessary response.

"We are not telling the patients to disclose to the public," Nograles explained. "We are telling them to disclose to the DOH. The DOH necessarily may share the information to enforcers but mindful of the provision of the Data Privacy Act."

The Philippines has over 4,648 COVID-19 cases, with 297 deaths and 197 recoveries to date.