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Unvaccinated barangay chiefs told: Resign, take a leave or face arrest

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Unvaccinated barangay chiefs told: Resign, take a leave or face arrest
A bus company puts up no vaccine no ride sign at their terminal in Buendia, Pasay on Jan. 14, 2022.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The national government’s strongarm approach towards the unvaccinated continues with the Department of the Interior and Local Government threatening to arrest unvaccinated barangay officials who refuse to resign or go on leave per its latest order.

Speaking in an interview aired over DZBB Super Radyo, Interior Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs Martin Diño disclosed that the DILG would be issuing its directive for barangay officials to list down unvaccinated residents “within this week.”

There is no law that says unvaccinated government officials are guilty of any crime, nor one that requires any Filipino to receive a coronavirus vaccine.

“I call on the barangays especially here in Metro Manila, almost all LGUs have issued an ordinance restricting those who have not been vaccinated... just follow the LGU and the president's order,” he said in Filipino.

“Making a list of unvaccinated residents will help to find out how many have not been vaccinated in their area to find out how many more vaccines are needed.”

Both national and local executives have ramped up pressure against the unvaccinated in the past few weeks. Along with the Department of Transportation, Metro Manila's mayors unanimously agreed to restrict the mobility of unvaccinated people in the capital region. A number of local governments have already passed ordinances banning the unvaccinated from entering malls, establishments, and public transportation in their localities. 

Diño added that barangays will face penalties for not listing those who have not been vaccinated in their area, as he justified the overall thrust as the government’s effort to protect the public.

“They (unvaccinated officials) can resign or leave until the pandemic is over...it is embarrassing for them to enforce the law even while they have not been vaccinated,” he said.

Transportation groups hit ‘no vax, no ride’ policy

However, transport workers, too, aren’t all vaccinated due to problems with the accessibility of vaccines as another commuter advocacy group spoke out against the Department of Transportation’s iteration of the policy later Sunday.

In a separate interview aired over DZBB Super Radyo, Alan Tanjusay, chairperson of the Associated Labor Union-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines said that even vaccinated workers will have a hard time finding transport for work because only a few public transportation drivers and operators are vaccinated.

“This requirement will burden workers. It will also be hard for those who have vaccination cards...This is a problem for the workers because there [will be] fewer jeepneys and buses running as only a few drivers are vaccinated,” he said in Filipino.

Tanjusay slammed the department order as being potentially illegal, pointing to the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 or Republic Act No. 11525 which provides that vaccine cards shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for educational and employment purposes and other similar government transaction purposes.

The pandemic task force has, however, made it policy to require vaccination for on-site work in certain industries and for unvaccinated workers to take regular RT-PCR tests at their own expense.

In an earlier statement sent to reporters, Transportation Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Reiner Yebra said: "They are interpreting "government transaction" to include access to public transportation, which is not the case."

"[The] Administrative Code prevails which mandates DOTr to ensure safe transportation services," he said in his statement issued through Transportation spokesperson Goddess Libiran. 

However, transport groups criticizing the measure did not focus on that part of the law. Earlier, Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Transportasyon convenor Dante Lagman told Philstar.com that the directive was “tantamount to being a requirement for work.”

"It is illegal because it is against the provisions of the vaccination program law which states that we don't need to require vaccination in exchange for public services such as public transportation," Tanjusay said. 

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