President Rodrigo Duterte has given the go-signal to community leaders to deputize civilians to go after individuals unvaccinated against COVID-19, in a bid to stop the continuing surge of active cases.
“The barangay captain can also mobilize civilians… They now become agents of a person in authority,” Duterte said in his recent Talk to the People.
He said in the absence of a law, the President is called upon to act because it is a national emergency.
“It is my position that we can restrain [the unvaccinated] and that I have ordered the barangay captains [to do this].”
Duterte said he would be happy to answer any legal challenges to his order.
“I’m now giving orders to the barangay captain to look for those persons who are not vaccinated and just would request them or order them, if you may, to stay put. And if he refuses, he goes out of the house and goes around in the community or maybe wherever, can be restrained.
And if he refuses, then the barangay captain being a person in authority is empowered now to arrest the recalcitrant persons—that is in addition to the police power, the agents of a person in authority,” he said.
The Metro Manila Council, composed of the 17 mayors in the National Capital Region, earlier passed a resolution restricting the mobility of unvaccinated people in Metro Manila.
MMC chairman and concurrent Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chief Benjamin Abalos Jr. said the resolution was made based on scientific data, specifically on the rate of COVID-19 infections in the NCR.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier urged the unvaccinated to get the COVID-19 jab at “the soonest possible time.”
Duque said the government is planning to hold a National Vaccination Day for senior citizens, as it continues to carry out a more aggressive campaign to convince Filipinos to get their primary doses and booster shots.
He noted a study conducted in the UK which shows that COVID-19 vaccines have an 81 percent efficacy rate against Omicron if individuals receive the primary series plus the booster shots.
The Palace on Friday said the President’s order to restrict the movement of unvaccinated people is applicable nationwide regardless of the alert level status in an area.
“His instructions to barangay chiefs is to appeal to those unvaccinated not to go outside their homes unless it’s not essential or not for work purposes,” said acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles.
“If you’re unvaccinated and you don’t have an essential task to do outdoors and it’s not work-related, then do not go out in order to protect the unvaccinated in our community,” he said.
The Palace official said Duterte’s order is meant to ensure the safety and protection of those who remain unvaccinated as well as the rest of the population.
The Palace also said the government will immediately tighten restrictions in any area if necessary.
Meanwhile, the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) said a total of 34 border checkpoints have been set up in Metro Manila to monitor the public’s compliance with minimum health protocols and to restrict the movement of unvaccinated people.
NCRPO spokesperson, Lt. Col. Jenny Tecson, in a radio interview, said these checkpoints are conducting visibility patrols and random checking on whether public transport vehicles are complying with the 70 percent capacity ruling and whether those going in and out of establishments and other commercial services are fully vaccinated.
Police will require travelers to present proof of vaccination and appropriate identification cards.
Coronavirus vaccinations are voluntary and less than half the population have so far completed their jabs.
Duterte said he was “appalled” at the large numbers of Filipinos yet to be vaccinated.
“If you don’t get a jab, you put everybody in jeopardy,” he said, with the virus “galloping in our community, in our country and in the world.”
The disease has infected 2.9 million people in the country, nearly 52,000 of whom have died.
The government loosened lockdowns in October last year, after coronavirus infections driven by the Delta variant peaked, in order to revive the battered economy.
New infections dwindled to a few hundred daily just before Christmas but ramped up again as families and friends got together for the holidays.
Health experts say the new cases are driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
Under the tighter restrictions, in place until mid-January, unvaccinated residents have to stay at home unless buying essentials or exercising.
Restaurants, parks, churches, and beauty salons will operate at lower capacity, while in-person classes and contact sports are suspended. With AFP