PNP warns anti-vax group vs holding mass protest against gov't vaccination program

PNP warns anti-vax group vs holding mass protest against gov't vaccination program
Vendors and other individuals working at the night market queue for their second dose of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine in Divisoria, Manila during the night vaccination program of the local government on Aug. 2, 2021.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police is discouraging a group of people that does not believe in COVID-19 vaccination to drop its plan of holding a mass action this month to protest the national government’s vaccination program.

Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP chief, said this comes after users on social media sought police action over the alleged mobilization plans of a group of "people who do not believe in the coronavirus disease" to protest the national government's vaccination program. 

Results from a survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations from June 23 to June 26 suggest that about 45% of Filipinos are willing to get inoculated against the coronavirus. This was higher than the SWS survey from May, where only 3 out of 10 adult Filipinos were willing to get vaccinated. 

"It has come to my knowledge that some of our compatriots have been urging on social media to join them in a plan to hold a massive protest against our government's free vaccination," Eleazar said in Filipino.

“While we respect the right of the people to freedom of expression and even the decision of some people to refuse vaccination, encouraging our kababayan to do something that would compromise public health is a different matter,” he added.

RELATED: Arrests, police barriers at otherwise peaceful SONA protests

President Duterte earlier approved the recommendation of the coronavirus task force to place Metro Manila under enhanced community quarantine, the strictest quarantine status, starting Friday.

Part of the measure is stricter border control and the implementation of longer curfew hours, from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. in Metro Manila during the entire ECQ period. 

"We are now looking into whether there is a violation of the law in this activity for our action but hopefully we will not extend it further in such a situation," said Eleazar.

He said that the plan to stage a mass protest by anti-vaccine people "will endanger public health amid the threat of the Delta variant which triggered serious public health problems in India and some parts of the world."

“We encourage our compatriots not to pursue their plan because we will not allow it especially during the ECQ. Your right to hold protest actions ends when the right of the most number of our compatriots to be safe from COVID-19 starts,” he said. 

FROM INTERAKSYON: ‘COVID-19 vaccines work’: PGH data shows lower COVID-19 infections among fully-vaccinated health workers

The PNP earlier promised to observe "maximum tolerance" for protesters during Duterte's State of the Nation Address and respect their right to assembly.

However, rallyists were arrested and had their protest materials confiscated on the day of the SONA. 

Earlier, Duterte, who has long touted vaccination and herd immunity as the only way out of the coronavirus crisis for the Philippines, threatened to arrest anyone who refuses to get vaccinated. 

"If you don’t want to be vaccinated, I will have you arrested. The vaccine is from—I will have you injected on your butt," he said in Filipino at a public address in late June. 

"But if you don’t want to, I will have you arrested. That is in pursuance of a policy of our crisis of this health issue."

The chief executive added that if people refuse to receive COVID-19 jabs, he will direct barangay captains to record a tally of them.

“Choose: Get vaccinated or I will have you jailed? I am telling you, police detention cells are not clean, police are lazy to clean. Everything is there—every filth is there. You will stay there,” he added.

To date, health authorities have recorded 1.61 million coronavirus infections in the country, 63,137 of whom are still classified as active cases. 

— Franco Luna 

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