The Congress would need to pass a law requiring Filipinos to get fully vaccinated against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after President Rodrigo R. Duterte broached the idea of using the government’s police power to compel citizens to get their jabs.
“Basta po mayroon pong batas ay pupuwede po talaga ipatupad ‘yan so ilagay po natin sa konteksto. (As long as there is a law, we can implement that so let’s put it into the proper context),” he said in a Palace press briefing.
Asked to clarify if Duterte’s new pronouncement meant he was urging the legislative branch to pass a law compelling the public to get vaccinated, he responded in the affirmative.
“Yes, of course. That’s the jurisdiction of Congress but the President can always certify an administration bill for such a law,” he added.
Roque said several countries have turned to vaccine mandates to increase vaccination rates.
“Talaga pong mayroong kapangyarihan ang estado na gumamit ng police power para itaguyod ang ikabubuti ng karamihan. Pero pagdating po diyan sa bakuna, antayin po natin, dahil kinakailangan din natin ng polisiya. (The state really has the power to use police power to promote the good of the majority. But when it comes to the vaccine, let us wait, because we need a policy first),” he said.
Roque also reiterated Duterte’s statement asking government workers who refused to get vaccinated to leave public service.
“I guess sisimulan ni Presidente yung requirement na kinakailangan bakunado para magtrabaho po sa gobyerno. Pero (I guess the President will start requiring mandatory vaccination among those working in government. But) this is without prejudice po to Congress passing a law,” he said.
Duterte has approved the inoculation of the general population in October.
The immunization program currently covers five priority groups, including healthcare workers, the elderly, persons with comorbidities, essential workers, and indigents.
In a prerecorded public address aired Monday night, Duterte said the government can use its police power to compel citizens, particularly those living in areas with enough vaccine supply, to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
“Itong police power of the state na hahawain mo kapwa tao mo, patayin mo. (This police power of the state can be implemented if you pose a threat to other people) and maybe it would affect a large number of our people, then you are already a danger to society and therefore I said, contrary to the belief or opinion of others… I can compel you under the police power of the state,” Duterte said.
As of Monday, the Philippines administered a total of 44,361,285 Covid-19 jabs. Of this number, 20,583,580 are fully vaccinated.
Metro Manila had administered a total of 15,466,087 Covid-19 shots. Of this number, 7,081,010 have completed their doses.
The country aims to attain population protection by inoculating 50 to 60 percent of the population with a concentration in Metro Manila by year-end. (PNA)