A food delivery driver is inoculated with Sinovac vaccine at a drive-thru vaccination centre in Manila on Tuesday. AP
Manolo B. Jara, Correspondent
President Rodrigo Duterte threatened the arrest of "hard-headed" Filipinos who have refused to take vaccine shots against the coronavirus pandemic amid rosy forecasts from his top aides that the country would celebrate Christmas "without face masks" in December.
Duterte, who is known for his public outbursts and brash rhetoric, said in televised remarks on Monday night that he has become exasperated with people who refuse to get immunised then help spread the coronavirus.
"They are hard-headed. Don't get me wrong. There is crisis being faced in this country. If you will not agree to be vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India if you want or somewhere, to America,” he said, adding he would order village leaders to compile a list of defiant residents.
“There is a national emergency. If you don't want to be vaccinated, I will have you arrested," Duterte added.
A human rights lawyer, Edre Olalia, raised concerns over Duterte’s threat, saying the president could not order the arrest of anybody who has not clearly committed any crime.
Department of Health (DOH) data showed that only about 2.l million Filipinos or 1.9 per cent of the country's total population of 110 million have been inoculated since the government launched its vaccination programme against COVID-19 on March 1.
The same data also indicated that the total number of people already inoculated was far short of the 50 to 70 million Filipinos targeted to achieve to herd immunity amid optimism from Duterte aides that the people would celebrate Christmas without face marks in December following the arrival of more vaccines.
As such, legal experts agreed that taking COVID-19 jabs is purely voluntary in the absence of a law or municipal ordinance that penalises refusal to be vaccinated.
Edre Olalia, the president of the militant National Union of People's Lawyers, dismissed as "baseless" the Duterte threat as he told ABS-CBN Teleradyo: "It has no legal basis. No one should get arrested without committing a crime."
Nevertheless, Guevarra defended Duterte as he noted the president was "using strong words to drive home the point for people to get vaccinated so that government could achieve herd immunity."
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Education officials and concerned group of parents noted that the law restored the GMRC as a mandatory school subject seven years after it was removed from the basic curriculum with the introduction of K-to-12 programme in 2013.
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