Not Their Problem? Supreme Court junks plea to mass test Pinoys for coronavirus

A COVID isolation facility <i>Photo: Department of Health / FB</i>
A COVID isolation facility Photo: Department of Health / FB

The Philippine Supreme Court has dismissed a group of frontliners’ petition urging the Duterte government to conduct free COVID-19 mass testing for Filipinos.

In a Sept. 1 resolution released to the media today, the high court en banc rejected the plea filed by the Citizens Urgent Response to End COVID-19 (CURE COVID-19) on July 3 for “failure of petitioners to show that they are entitled to the issuance of a writ of mandamus.”

A mandamus is a court order compelling someone to execute a neglected duty that they are legally obligated to complete. In this case, the group believed that the Duterte government failed to do its legal duty of protecting and promoting “the right to health of the people” under Article 2 and Section 15 of the constitution. 

Read: PH gov’t still has no plans for mass testing, leaves responsibility to private sector

The court, however, said that a mandamus is only necessary if there is no other remedy available.

“While the Constitution enjoins respondents to protect the right to health…The job of the Court is to say what the law is, not dictate how another branch of government should do its job,” the resolution read.

The court dismissed the plea without requiring comments from government officials and said that the group should have first exhausted all remedies by lodging their complaints with various involved agencies such as the Departments of Health, and Interior and Local Government.

Read: Duterte signs law granting him additional powers in fight against coronavirus

In July, the Supreme Court also junked a petition asking President Rodrigo Duterte to disclose his medical records, in a bid to prove if Duterte was fit to lead the country. In the same month, the court threw out a plea questioning the constitutionality of the now-lapsed Bayanihan Law, which gave the president broad powers and access to billions of pesos in funds to supposedly combat COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said in a statement that the court’s decision “dashes hopes that our inept and negligent government will be compelled to do its constitutional duty to protect and respect the people’s rights to health and information,” adding that the Duterte government is focused on securing vaccines abroad instead of installing measures to slow down the spread of the disease in the country.

Since the start of the lockdown in March, many have called on the Duterte government for free mass testing. Instead, Malacañang has left the responsibility to the private sector, with many local government units forced to come up with their own solutions in the absence of concrete plans from the national government.

To date, the Philippines continues to have the highest confirmed COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia at 269, 407, with 4,663 deaths, and 207,352 recoveries.


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