President Duterte threatens arrest of Filipinos who refuse virus vaccine - GulfToday

President Duterte threatens arrest of Filipinos who refuse virus vaccine


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.

Manila-vaccine-750x450 A woman receives her first dose of Sinovac  vaccine in Manila. File/Reuters

"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.


Health workers prepare to inoculate residents with Sinovac in Manila.
But Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra immediately reacted and pointed out there is no law compelling any Filipino to get vaccinated. "As a lawyer, he knows that not getting vaccinated is a legal choice," he said referring to Duterte.
"There is no law," Guevarra added, "that compels vaccination against COVID 19, much less criminalises rejection of the vaccines because these are still in their trial phases."

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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