The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) has taken a cudgel for unvaccinated people in the country against local policies and ordinances that restrict their movement “despite the absence of law” on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination.
Local government units in the National Capital Region (NCR) began, even before the implementation of the “No Vaccine, No Travel” policy on January 17, issuing orders prohibiting unvaccinated people from taking public transport.
On January 18, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra clarified that there was no absolute restriction on the movement of unvaccinated people.
“The unvaccinated are not absolutely prohibited from using public transport, provided they have passes to show that they have been out to obtain essential goods and services, such as food and medications ; or that they have medical certificates showing that they could not be vaccinated for medical or health reasons,” Guevarra said.
In defense of the unvaccinated, the IBP said in a statement:
“The IBP understands that vaccination remains the primary science-based way out of this COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the IBP strongly supports the government’s vaccination campaign.
“What we cannot understand is why unvaccinated people are being treated in a way that appears to violate their constitutional rights.
“No law requires individuals to undergo mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 (coronavirus disease).
“Existing laws relating to pandemics or epidemics of communicable diseases and vaccination such as Republic Act No. to get vaccinated against COVID. -19.
RA 11332 is the Communicable Disease Reporting Act, while RA 11469 and RA 11494 are the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act and the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act respectively.
The IBP said that even the latest law, RA 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccine Program Act of 2021, states that: “Provided, further, that vaccine cards are not considered an additional requirement and for other similar transaction purposes.
He pointed out that “the DOTr (Department of Transportation) “No Vaccine, No Ride” policy, as well as the LGU’s “no vaccine-stay at home policy” orders are apparently intended to protect health. public, but at the same time restrict an individual’s right to travel or move around.
He recalled that the 1987 Constitution’s Bill of Rights states that: “Nor shall the right to travel be hindered except in the interests of national security, public safety or public health, such as the provides for the law”.
He noted that even RA 11332, RA 11469, RA 11494, and RA 11525 “contain no provision that will authorize the limitation of an individual’s right to travel or move simply because that individual is not vaccinated.”
Although the IBP has acknowledged that the DOTr and LGU policies “contain exceptions, such as religious beliefs, medical conditions, work, and access to essential services for good”, but “these exceptions are not sufficient to address legal questions raised against these policies.”
He urged the national government and LGUs “to review these policies in order to uphold the rule of law that the IBP is bound to uphold.”
Guevarra had also explained that “common carriers are indeed open to everyone, but under our existing laws, common carrier operators are required to carry their passengers safely to their destinations, and ‘safely’ means the absence not only of accidental injuries but also of communicable diseases.”
He said “these measures are time-limited (only while the NCR is under Alert Level 3 or above and are not intended to be adopted in places with very low vaccination rates.”
Guevarra also said:
“With respect to the DOTr, its authority derives directly from the Administrative Code (EO 292) and indirectly from Republic Act No. 11332 (Compulsory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases) as a member of the IATF (Inter- Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases).
“Furthermore, since these measures are temporary and limited in their geographical scope, local orders will be sufficient.
“The underlying classification is between vaccinated and unvaccinated, and between them there is a huge and substantial distinction.
“More than three out of four people hospitalized are unvaccinated, and more than three out of four people who die from COVID-19 are unvaccinated.”
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