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EDITORIAL: eSalvar is Optional

Apparently affected by the divergent public responses triggered by the decision of the Naga-based Regional Trial Court Branch 21 in Special Civil Case No.RTC 2020-0072 (Atty. Agapito B. Rosales, Atty. Alex A. Arejola, Edgardo M. Castro, Edizza D.Quides, Dianne M. Durante, Roy Angelo R. Belleza, Francis Patray P.Bolanos and Paulo Gabriel D. Jamer, Petitioners, -versus- The Local Government of Naga City, represented by Mayor Nelson S. Legacion and Vice Mayor Cecilia B.Veluz De Asis, Respondents), City Hall’s top brass dispatched a team of drumbeaters to generate comments favoring their side. Some dismissed, albeit politely, the team.

The initiative is unnecessary and uncalled for. The controversy is purely legal and no amount of campaign to gain popular support or otherwise can change that. For this reason Judge Pablo Formaran has proven equal to the task.

The dispositive portion of the 53-page decision is hereby quoted verbatim— “the petition is partially granted in that Section 9 (g) of Ordinance No. 2020-086 which provides for the mandatory use of eSalvar application or the so-called “No QR Card, No Entry Policy,” albeit already amended, is nonetheless declared unconstitutional, and all other regulations issued and being implemented by respondent Local Government of Naga City springing therefrom are considered null and void;

Similarly, Section 6 of the same ordinance, which requires the mandatory registration of all individuals, whether permanent or temporary residents, with the Naga City contact tracing application, is declared unconstitutional;

Additionally, Paragraphs b.2 and b.4, Section 5 (b) of the ordinance, which require the collection and processing of sensitive personal information relating to birthdates and sex of registrants of eSalvar are declared invalid for being violative of the principle of proportionality as provided under Section 11 (d) of Republic Act No. 10173 or the Data Privacy Act and consequently, the entry of birthdate and sex in the eSalvar system should not be made mandatory.

The ruling clarified that the rest of the provisions of the questioned ordinance, as amended by Ordinance No.2020-101, are upheld as valid as a means of contact tracing amid the onslaught of the pandemic, subject to the protection of privacy and liberty.

What is missing in the figuratively manipulated in jigsaw fashion copy of the decision that was posted online for obvious hidden agenda, is the portion stating in substance that while the petition was pending resolution, the respondents amended the controversial ordinance as a consequence of which the sensitive provisions of the original ordinance were practically abandoned and therefore rendered non issue.

It bears reminding however that comments on a legal matter be issued with a lot of discriminating taste. This applies to coffee shop media practitioners and keyboard reporters who have lost the decency of attribution. Obviously certain quarters were quick to the draw without even observing the tenets of responsible journalism. Such practice has to find its end. Instead of helping the people to get reliable information, they are fed with trash. They no longer belong to the Fourth Estate.

The petition in question would not have been necessary had the ordinance been more thoroughly studied. It is clear that the ordinance is actually patterned after a similar legislative piece passed by other LGU’s. The Naga SP is noted for adopting a hit and miss approach. Examples: parking privileges and backyard vegetable gardening. No wonder they have become a butt of joke as based from the soap opera expression “nothing but a second rate copycat”.

The view that eSalvar is more practical and therefore acceptable to them, may be justified as a means of protecting public health. But then the end does not justify the means. Those who volunteer to provide purely private information are free to do so. It is only hoped that they do not regret later on. Finally, Naga City being a cradle for libertarians will always salute those who embrace the belief that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.


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