Lawyer group says no legal basis for 'no vax, no ride' rule

·3 min read
A passenger sits next to signage of
A passenger sits next to signage of "No Vaccine No Ride" inside a passenger jeepney in Quezon City, suburban Manila on January 17, 2022, as the Philippine government banned unvaccinated people from using public transport amid a record surge in coronavirus cases. Lawyer group Integrated Bar of the Philippines said the policy has no legal basis. (Photo: JAM STA ROSA/AFP via Getty Images)

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said that while the lawyer group supports the government’s vaccination drive, there is no legal basis for “no-vaccine-no-ride” and “no-vaccine-stay-home” rules.

In a statement on Friday (Jan 21), IBP expressed concern on the legal implications of recent developments affecting unvaccinated persons.

“The IBP understands that vaccination remains the primary scientific way out of this COVID-19 Pandemic. What we cannot understand is why unvaccinated persons are treated in a manner that appears to be in violation of their Constitutional rights,” it said in the statement.

They said that the “no-vax-no-ride” and “no-vax-stay-home” policies appear to be unfair and unreasonable as only around 54 million Filipinos or roughly half of the Philippine population have been given the COVID-19 vaccine. They also noted that not enough vaccines are available, majority of individuals 17 years and under have not yet been vaccinated, and that there is not enough data at the local government or barangay level on who have been vaccinated.

The lawyer organization noted that there is no law that requires individuals to undergo compulsory vaccination against COVID-19. They said that existing laws on pandemics and vaccination such as RA 11332 (Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act), RA 11469 (Bayanihan to Heal As One Act), RA 11494(Bayanihan to Recover As One Act), and RA 11525 (Law establishing COVID-19 vaccination program) do not contain any provision that can be used as legal basis to force individuals to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Furthermore, they highlighted Section 12 of RA 11525 that says “vaccine cards shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment and other similar government transaction purposes.”

IBP said that they are “at a loss” on the legal basis for threatening unvaccinated individuals with arrest. They said that even the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) earlier advised that employees cannot be forced to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

They said that the “no-vax-no-ride” policy and Local Government Units’ (LGUs) “no-vax-stay-home” policy are intended to protect public health, but at the same time restrict people’s right to travel or movement. They highlighted Section 6, Article III (Bill of Rights) of the 1987 Constitution that says “Neither shall the right to travel be impaired except in the interest if national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by the law.”

The IBP urged the local and national government to take a second look at the existing policies in order to uphold the rule of law.

Recently, an interview by Inquirer made rounds on the internet as a market vendor slammed the “no-vax-no-ride” policy. Gemma Parina, a balut (fertilized duck egg) vendor, said that she now walks from her house to the marketplace because she is not vaccinated against COVID-19. She said she chose not to be vaccinated as she has a heart condition and diabetes.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. The views expressed are her own.

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