Statement by Privacy Commissioner Raymund Enriquez Liboro on “Social Vigilantism” in the time of COVID-19

April 2, 2020 | 5:11 PM GMT+0800 Last Edit: May 12, 2020

The National Privacy Commission strongly condemns “social vigilantes” who attack or threaten the safety of health workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the misguided belief that such acts of discrimination may serve the public good.

Social vigilantes are those who take it upon themselves to enforce their views of what they consider appropriate beliefs and behavior.

There have been incidents in which 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 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.

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.

Our 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.

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.

Once personal information of health workers, PUIs and PUMs is divulged, targeting, doxing and stigmatization are not far behind.

Social vigilantes contribute to the problem by dampening the bayanihan spirit and damaging our collective capacity to respond in an organized and humane way. They must, therefore, be discouraged and stopped.

In fulfillment of its twin mandate to protect the fundamental human right of privacy and ensure the free flow of information to promote innovation and growth, the National Privacy Commission is committed to deter all unlawful use of personal data.

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