Last June, President Duterte threatened to send to jail those who refused to be vaccinated against Covid-19. “If you do not want to be vaccinated, I will have you arrested,” he said. “Don’t force my hand into it, and use a strong-arm method. Nobody wants that.”
Someone must have reminded him later that the government did not have enough vaccines to sustain a massive inoculation program in the country at that time. No one went to jail for refusing to get his arm jabbed and the threat has all but become distant memory.
I personally would have loved seeing some people locked up, not for refusing to have themselves vaccinated but for spreading lies against the vaccine. It is disgusting to see people whom you trusted to know better actively participate in efforts to discredit the usefulness of the vaccine in controlling the spread of the coronavirus.
What about it, Mr. President? We had a law that penalized those who spread false news, rumors and gossip that cause or tend to cause panic. Presidential Decree No. 90, which the police tried to use against those who joke to the entrance guards at malls that a bag that was being inspected had a bomb inside, had long been repealed, however. But the more recent Cybercrime Prevention Act has supposedly filled the void left by PD 90. Why are we not using it?
As for those who have been misled by the disinformation campaign waged by anti-vaxxers or those who are just naturally fearful of the needle and what’s inside it, a more patient and understanding approach would be more appropriate. It will not be very difficult to convince them, not with the daily reports of people dying from Covid-19.
Employers who are prohibited by Labor Secretary and PDP Laban senatorial nominee Silvestre Bello III from requiring their employees to submit to vaccination can try a different tack: Require the unvaccinated to have themselves swabbed every week at the employee’s expense for them to be allowed entry to the work premises. The Labor Code requires employers to promote safety and well-being in the workplace so screening against potential virus carriers should not be difficult to enforce.
It is, of course, sad that we still have to pressure people to do something that they ought to be freely volunteering to do. As the President correctly and angrily pointed out in June, we are in a crisis. Why is it difficult to accept that and the responsibilities that we are called upon to discharge so we can get out of the hole together?
Let us not ever commit the mistake of downplaying the threat of Covid-19. It—the mistake, not the virus—could be fatal. The sadder thing is that some of those who die acted more responsibly than some did, but became victims of bad decisions by others. I mean nobody deserves to die, but if someone should, shouldn’t it be at least the one who brought it upon himself?
I lost so many friends already since the start of the pandemic. Some of them never had a chance because there were yet no vaccines at that time. Now, we have a fair chance of avoiding infection and possible death from Covid-19 by getting vaccinated. Please do it.