September 29, 2021

Bicol Express News

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Judge Formaran III declares “unconstitutional” COVID-19 contact tracing eSalvar ordinance of Naga City

File Photo: Lawyer Luis Ruben General, counsel for the petitioners versus Naga City contact tracing eSalvar Ordinance.

By Joey Natividad

A judge in Naga City, Camarines Sur, ruled that the city ordinance on contact tracing that will check on Covid-19 spread was declared “unconstitutional”, and some provisions as “null and void”.

Judge Pablo Cabillan Formaran III acted on the petition filed by several city residents questioning the legality of the city “eSalvar Ordinance”, insisting that some provisions as “unconstitutional”, and infringement of human rights, and intrusion by the State on the privacy of individuals that might lead to the city government “spying” on the citizens.

Lawyer Luis Ruben General, counsel for the petitioners, lauded the court decision as a victory for the protection of human rights against the State’s over-intrusion on civil rights of every citizen.

Petitioners led by former Provincial Prosecutor Agapito Rosales, Edgardo Castro, and others filed the petition, fearing, among other reasons, that the eSalvar Ordinance might be used for spying on citizens, the questionable integrity on the handling of personal data privacy, and may be subjected for abuse as such malicious handling of individuals’ personal data might lead to blackmail, extortion, and coercion if used by evil persons.

Last year, the Naga City Government under Mayor Nelson Legacion, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, passed an Ordinance mandating residents and visitors to present a QR Code ID before entering buildings and establishments in the city. The QR ID must be applied online, or at the City Hall.

In effect, “No QR ID Card, No Entry” signs were posted on buildings and establishments, a city mandate that empowers security guards to refuse entry to persons without the required “QR ID”.

The filing of the petition has been monitored by legal stakeholders such as Lawyer Areiz Macaraig ànd others, and LGUs since this petition might prevent other LGUs from adopting similar ordinances in their own turf.

The court ruled this ” No QR Code ID Card, No Entry” policy as unconstitutional, and declared as “null and void” other regulations springing from the implementation of the Ordinance.

Judge Formaran III also declared as “Invalid” , and “Unconstitutional” the collection of data of persons under the heading of “Birthdates” and “Sex”, which is violative of Data Privacy law on the principle of proportionality.

The Honorable Judge also declared Unconstitutional the city ordinance provisions mandating all residents and non-residents, permanent and temporary to register under the eSalvar contact tracing system application.

However, the rest of the provisions of the Ordinance, as amended by Ordinance 2020-101, are upheld as valid and constitutional.

The court decision was ordered on April 8, 2021.