Duterte: Restrictions on unvaccinated are for the public good

Duterte: Restrictions on unvaccinated are for the public good
In this July 30, 2021 file photo, police man a checkpoint in Marikina.
The STAR / Boy Santos, file

MANILA, Philippines — Individual rights must give way to the "the greatest good for the greatest number", President Rodrigo Duterte said as he argued for restrictions on the unvaccinated that some sectors have said may be unconstitutional.

In pre-recorded comments, Duterte said that government is obligated to keep its people safe from the pandemic and that measures like having barangay officials list names of people in their villages who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus are justified and do not violate the Constitution.

"[E]ven if it is really a violation, at this time when there is a public — public ano, protection of the public, of the many, eh masasakripisyo talaga ‘yung the right will be — not really sacrificed — but must be below always, it cannot go higher than the public good," he said.

"[T]hat’s a dictum that must be remembered when constitutional provisions are being put into issue," the president also said.

Over the weekend, an official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government said barangay officials should list down the names of unvaccinated residents and told unvaccinated barangay captains — without legal basis — to resign or take a leave of absence.

"Obligado — obligasyon ng gobyerno kasi 'yung may namatay, tapos 'yung iba ayaw naman 'yung sa bakuna," Duterte said in his pre-recorded message.

(It is government's obligation... people are dying and some don't want to be vaccinated.)

Although Duterte has repeatedly hinted at making vaccines manadatory, there have been no moves in Congress to pass a law that would make it so. The Palace said last October that "the level of individuals who want to be vaccinated is already very high so maybe we don't need it for now."

Recent decisions by government agencies, though, have made it a requirement. On-site workers must be vaccinated while unvaccinated employees must get regular COVID-19 tests at their own expense. In areas under Alert Level 3, unvaccinated people are barred from malls, restaurants and other public places as well as on public transportation.

Vaccination in the Philippines was hampered in 2021 by a lack of supply, slow rollout and vaccination hesitancy among some sectors. Around 67.8% of Metro Manila residents are fully vaccinated.

RELATED: 'Shotgun approach': NGOs hit 'no vax, no ride' policy on public transportation

The Commission on Human rights has warned that the "no vaccine, no ride" policy "effectively restricts the exercise and enjoyment of fundamental rights" while transportation workers' group Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Transportasyon called it too cumbersome to implement.

"If unvaccinated workers are not allowed on public transport to get to work then it is tantamount to being a requirement for work," the group also said.

Manila police last week arrested and charged six people who attended a small protest against mandatory vaccination for not wearing masks and refusing to present vaccination cards. 

Without naming the group directly, Duterte said they were "doused by the bumbero (hosed down by firefighters) because you are violating the prohibition of being, you know, social distancing, and even a crowd tha — A crowd is a crowd."

The Duterte administration has often played down rights and liberties because of emergency situations like the pandemic, the communist insurgency, terrorism and the "war on drugs." — Jonathan de Santos




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