FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

Credit should go to French President Emanuel Macron for leading the way in the use of hardball tactics to get people to be vaccinated.

In his latest articulation of policy, Macron used a French verb that might be improper to translate here, its root word being the material we dispose after completing digestion. At any rate, his message was clear: government will make life hell for those who refuse vaccination.

Among the more controversial elements of Macron’s policy is the issuance of a health card attesting to vaccination status. Without that card, French citizens will not be able to move around freely, dine in restaurants, book hotel rooms and enjoy any nightlife.

Expectedly, the proposed health card provoked angry demonstrations from right-wing groups claiming infringement on personal liberty. Although he faced a strong challenge in forthcoming elections from a conservative politician, Macron did not yield any ground on his tough policy posture.

Right-wing demonstrations broke out not only in France but also in Italy, the Netherlands and elsewhere. They resemble the conservative resistance to public health measures we saw in the US. Last week, in a controversial ruling, the largely conservative US Supreme Court rolled back Biden’s mandate for large companies to require their employees to be vaccinated.

Last week, too, the sports news was dominated by the ruling of an Australian appeals court upholding the decision of that country’s immigration authorities to deport tennis champion Novak Djokovic. The world’s number one player arrived in Melbourne to defend his Australian Open title – a tournament he won nine times in the past – without presenting proof of vaccination as regulations required.

The deportation meant Novak could not defend his title and a chance to win his 21st major championship, breaking out of a tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. In the aftermath of his expulsion, Novak will very likely be prohibited from playing in succeeding tournaments to be held in countries with clear vaccination requirements to entry. He could miss his chance to win the informal “Greatest of All Time” (GOAT) tennis player.

That is a hefty price to pay for refusing the simple act of getting vaccinated. But the fate that befell Novak offers the world an important lesson about putting community welfare above personal disposition and abiding by public health regulations.

Unlike Western societies, there has been little resistance to health protocols in Asian societies – at least resistance premised on the primacy of individual preference. This could be due to the cultural predisposition of most Asian societies to put primacy on collective good over personal preference.

There has, to be sure, been as much vaccine conspiracy theories peddled by libertarian groups in Asia as in the West. But Asians appear more willing to accept the proposition that vaccination is a way to protect the community.

In our own case, the Duterte administration has taken a tough stance against those who refuse vaccination. The President has ordered barangay officials to canvass their constituents’ vaccination status as a means to restrain the movement of those not inoculated. The Department of Transportation (DOTr) pushed the envelope farther, declaring a “no vax, no ride” policy initially covering the National Capital Region.

Upon the Department of Labor’s representation, the DOTr policy was subsequently refined to exempt workers from the ban upon presentation of proper identification cards. The refinement on this policy appears to have silenced critics of the tough policy.

Earlier, the Commission on Human Rights expressed reservations about the effects of tough public health policies on civil liberties. If the commissioners are convinced about the reservations they expressed, they should go to the Supreme Court and raise a constitutional challenge against the policy.

One presidential candidate sought to make political hay by suggesting government look for ways to incentivize acceptance of vaccines. Incentives have been tried everywhere, including outright bribery of citizens to get vaccinated, to little avail.

There is no stronger incentive than the freedom of movement guaranteed by vaccination in the face of tough public health policy.


Theodore Te and his accomplices were taken to task by the Comelec for misrepresenting tax regulations to support their claim that Bongbong Marcos’ certificate of candidacy be cancelled. The rebuke was strongly worded and could affect the other rulings seeking the candidate’s disqualification.

The petitioners tried to pull the wool over the Comelec’s eyes by claiming the court decision included a jail term. A jail term is prescribed only for enterprises that fail to pay government royalties due it.

The other petitions seeking disqualification are still under consideration and the merits could not be publicly discussed. What is clear is that many of these petitions, at least in part, were intended as “propaganda by deed.”

They intend to achieve the same adverse effects on the candidate as the petitions questioning the citizenship of Fernando Poe Jr. in 2004 and Grace Poe in 2016. In both cases, the petitions did dent the momentum of the impugned candidates.

Another potential case of misrepresentation is contained in the political ads placed by the Leni Robredo campaign.

One ad makes the promise that under a Robredo candidacy, government will guarantee workers against unemployment. This is possible only under a centrally planned economy such as the Soviet Union before. All centrally planned economies failed.

Another ad has a beneficiary thanking Robredo for “free” legal assistance rendered in her case. Leni’s employment record, however, shows that after she finally passed the Bar exams she was employed by the Public Attorney’s Office. Therefore, she received a salary from taxpayer money.


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