No basis to arrest unvaccinated outside their homes, law expert says

No basis to arrest unvaccinated outside their homes, law expert says
Filipinos queue for RT-PCR swab tests at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022 as the Philippines records a sharp increase in new COVID-19 cases.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — A constitutional law expert said there is no legal basis to arrest unvaccinated individuals who are outside their homes.

Former Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Domingo Egon Cayosa said there is no law or ordinance that prohibits an unvaccinated person from leaving their houses.

"What is clear is the new ordinance in Metro Manila that under Alert Level 3 and you are yet to be vaccinated, you cannot go to public places," he said in Filipino in an interview with DZBB.

Metro Manila mayors agreed in principle to restrict movements and activities of unvaccinated individuals and are set to issue ordinances to bar them from public places like malls and restaurants.

But President Rodrigo Duterte, in a pre-recorded briefing that aired Tuesday night, said barangay captains should tell those who are not vaccinated to not leave their houses.

"If you leave, you will be escorted, if you force the issue, I said, because the barangay captain is a person in authority, he can place you under arrest and bring you to the station," Duterte added partly in Filipino.

Cayosa however noted that ordinances have a penal component and have to be "strictly construed."

"So if the ordinance states the prohibition will be on malls, public places… but if you are in front of your house and you do no go to [public places], then there is no ordinance stating you cannot go out of your home," he said.

He also stressed that the exercise of police power will still be based on the law or ordinances. "Absent any crime, you will not have basis to arrest," Cayosa continued.

The Duterte government has been criticized for militarizing its approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, as seen in lockdowns enforced with police and military manning checkpoints.

This is also not the first time the president threatened arrest amid the pandemic: from quarantine protocol violators, people without face masks, to barangay captains who fail to enforce a ban on mass gatherings, those wearing their face masks improperly, and people who refuse to be vaccinated. — Kristine Joy Patag

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