The National Privacy Commission (NPC) has condemned “social vigilantes” who are attacking or threatening the safety of health workers in the misguided belief that such acts of discrimination may serve the public good.
In a statement on Thursday, April 2, NPC chair Raymund Liboro explained that self-styled social vigilantes are those who take it upon themselves to enforce their views of what they consider appropriate beliefs and behavior.
The NPC chief said there have been incidents in which these social vigilantes doused chemicals on health workers, expelled them from boarding houses, or refused them lodging and even barred them from taking tricycles on their way to work or home.
The health workers, he said, are being attacked as a group, prompting a number of them not to wear uniforms in public for fear of being discriminated against, or worse assaulted.
“These acts are unacceptable and their perpetrators must be penalized in accordance with law,” Liboro said. “We also denounce people who irresponsibly publicize the personal data of persons under investigation (PUIs) and persons under monitoring(PUMs), thus exposing them to danger even graver than the novel coronavirus itself – that of maltreatment, online bullying and physical violence from individuals who may be driven by desperation and fear.”
Liboro said the health workers, as well as the PUIs and PUMs under their watch, are not the enemy. “They are on the battlefront of the public health emergency, doing their part to contain the crisis and deserving the support and compassion from the rest of us,” he said.
The NPC chief added: “Their human rights must be respected in these times of great social and economic distress. They have the right to be left in peace and their personal information protected against being disseminated without their consent.”
He said once personal information of health workers, PUIs and PUMs is divulged, targeting, doxing and stigmatization are not far behind. Social vigilantes, he pointed out, contribute to the problem by dampening the bayanihan spirit and damaging collective capacity to respond in an organized and humane way.
“They must, therefore, be discouraged and stopped,” Liboro said. “The National Privacy Commission is committed to deter all unlawful use of personal data.”