Guevarra: LGUs can require vaccination vs COVID-19 even without national law

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Guevarra: LGUs can require vaccination vs COVID-19 even without national law
Health workers and other members of vaccine proriority groups receive their second shot of Sinovac's COVID-19 jab at Marikina Elementary School on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — While a law must be passed to mandate vaccination for all Filipinos, local government units may pass an ordinance to compel their residents to get jabs against COVID-19 — but this too may also be challenged in court, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

"Theoretically, a local ordinance compelling all residents within the territory of the LGU to get themselves vaccinated against COVID-19 may be enacted even without a national law on the matter," the DOJ chief said Thursday.

"Local government units, through their legislative organs, may also exercise police power," he added. Guevarra explained that this exercise of police power is similar to a local ordinance prohibiting video game arcades within specified distance from schools.

But the justice chief stressed that a local ordinance mandating vaccination may also be legally challenged.

“[L]ike all other laws and ordinances invoking police power, it may be challenged in court by anyone on the issue of reasonableness among others,” he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte, when he hinted that the government may mandate vaccination against COVID-19, invoked police power, which Guevarra said was correctly used.

But the DOJ chief also said police power, which rests upon the inherent right of the State and the people to self-protection, will be through Congress.

“This power, especially if accompanied by penalties and sanctions to enforce obedience or compliance, must be exercised through the legislature,” he said on Wednesday.

Duterte in June threatened to arrest people who refuse to be vaccinated, but to date, no law has been passed to make inoculation against COVID-19 mandatory.

The government however is ramping up its vaccination program to slow down the spread of coronavirus amid the threat of the more infectious Delta variant. Government experts earlier in September raised the target for herd immunity from COVID-19 to 90% of the population from just 70%.

As of September 29, 21,103,317 Filipinos completed their vaccines against COVID-19, while more than 24 million are waiting for their second jabs.

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