PHILIPPINES. Manila: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to arrest Filipinos who refuse to get vaccinated, as the country confronts one of Asia’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks with a daily average of over 6000 new cases.
In a late-night address on Monday, Duterte said he would order the arrest of people who decline a vaccine, following reports of low turnout at several vaccination centres across the country.
“If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I’ll have you arrested, then I’ll inject a vaccine into your buttocks”, he said. “You choose, get vaccinated, or I send you to jail.”
Duterte threatens to arrest citizens
Duterte claimed such a measure was needed given the dangers posed by unvaccinated people as potential “carriers” of COVID-19, adding that local governments should keep lists of people who refuse to be inoculated.
While the President vowed to find a legal way to enforce the policy, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday confirmed there was “no law as yet that compels vaccination against COVID-19, much less criminalizes not getting vaccinated.”
Edre Olalia, the President of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, added in a statement that there is no ‘constitutional basis’ for the President to order such arrests, even during a national emergency.
Reacting to Duterte’s latest comments, Dr RJ Naguit, spokesperson for left-wing political party Akbayan, said the threat of arrest was in line with the “simplistic and violent approach” that continues to divide the country under the current administration.
“The Duterte government should enlighten and not intimidate. People need to be reassured that the vaccines work… they help protect themselves and their loved ones,” he said. “Vaccination opens the path back to a normal life and better future.”
Surveys conducted earlier this year found that six out of 10 Filipinos were not willing to receive a vaccine, due to concerns over safety, efficacy and cost.
Since the government began administering vaccines in March, over 8 million shots have been given to Filipinos, with health authorities working to have at least 70 million of the country’s 110 million people vaccinated by December.
To date, the Philippines has observed over 1.3 million COVID-19 cases and 23,000 deaths.