The Supreme Court (SC) scrapped a petition seeking the tribunal to require the government to conduct proactive COVID-19 mass testing, contact tracing and isolation, and effective treatment of patients.
In a resolution dated September 1, the high court en banc said that the petitioners, who came from different sectors from healthcare workers to public utility drivers, were not able to justify that they were entitled to the extraordinary writ of mandamus.
The court dismissed the petition, and respondent government officials are not required to comment.
The petitioners then turned to the Supreme Court, claiming the government’s effort to fight COVID-19 is not enough.
The absence of COVID-19 mass testing violates Filipino’s right to health, the petitioners said.
They described the “mass testing” as testing of all suspected cases, contacts of probable and confirmed cases, medical frontline workers, and high-risk and vulnerable sectors.
They also wanted the government to issue “accurate, timely, and complete information” on the COVID-19 situation in the country.
The court, however, said it could tell another government branch how to perform its job.
SC junks petition for COVID-19 mass testing
The justices said that the remedy of mandamus only applies when the law defines a duty to be performed “with such precision and certainty as to leave nothing to the exercise of discretion or judgment.”
“The job of the Court is to say what the law is, not dictate how another branch of government should do its job,” the court said.
“While the Constitution enjoins respondents to protect the right to health, mandamus will not lie to compel them to exercise said protection in a certain way or to a certain degree,” the court said.
“Without a demonstration that an official in the executive branch failed to perform a mandatory, nondiscretionary duty, courts have no authority to issue a writ of mandamus, no matter how dire the emergency,” it added.
The court also said those who file the petition of COVID-19 mass testing did not exhaust other administrative solutions before turning to the tribunal.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, which represents the petitioners, called the SC ruling a “regrettable dismissive resolution mainly on technicality.”