Can you remember almost two years ago when President Rodrigo Duterte joked about veerus, referring to coronavirus? He sounded confident that the veerus will not stay for long. Almost two years to this day, Duterte issued a nationwide stay-at-home order this week after COVID-19 cases in the country are rising, again.
In Zamboanga Sibugay, while COVID-19 cases continued to be the lowest in Zamboanga Peninsula, Governor Wilter Palma outdid Duterte. Palma levels up by ordering that all unvaccinated, unless they can present negative results of RT-PCR tests, cannot enter or transact in all offices, cannot buy in the market and business establishments, and cannot drive their vehicles or ride vehicles of public conveyances.
The backdrop of these orders, both of Duterte or Palma, is the number of vaccinated persons against the eligible target population. In the National Capital Region, it is nearly 95%. In Zamboanga City, 71%, and in Zamboanga Sibugay it could also have reached more than half of the target.
Despite the relative success of the vaccination drive, we are still nowhere near back to normal.
And the solution they resort to? Draconian measures.
In my social media post, I mentioned Dr. Said Sahi, provincial epidemiologist and acting chief of hospital of Zamboanga Sibugay Provincial Hospital, who said: The first generation COVID-19 vaccines are not infection-preventive, they are only symptoms-preventive. This simply means that vaccinated persons can still get infected by coronavirus only that the symptoms are mild or moderate.
The data from hospitals showed that there is a non-difference in terms of infection transmission-wise between the unvaccinated and vaccinated.
Look at these figures. The COVID-19 patients confined at St. Luke’s Medical Center, as of January 3, were 40% unvaccinated, 40% vaccinated, and 10% had their booster shots. The Philippine General Hospital also recorded on January 3 that its patients with COVID-19 were 60% vaccinated. In Mandaluyong hospital, out of the 67 COVID-19 patients, 58 of them were vaccinated, and only nine were unvaccinated.
These numbers tell us that these COVID-19 vaccines are not what it promised to be. These vaccinated people can still get infected and infect others around them.
In an article published in The Federalist on 14 December 2021, Forcing people into COVID vaccines ignores important scientific information, the author pointed out:
“In the case of COVID-19 vaccines, the censorship aims to stamp out any questions about a universal vaccination program that, it is now clear, was based on the false premise that low-risk individuals must get vaccinated to halt the spread of COVID-19 and end the pandemic. Almost a year into the global vaccination campaign — and starting long before Omicron arrived — all the data stand in stark opposition to this belief.
“Rapidly waning vaccine efficacy and COVID-19 surges in countries and regions with high vaccination rates — including Israel, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and now Europe, as well as high-vaccination US states like Vermont — are evidence that vaccinated individuals can spread COVID-19 at rates comparable to the unvaccinated. Multiple studies have shown that viral loading in vaccinated individuals with COVID-19 is the same as in the unvaccinated.”
Issuing an executive order banning unvaccinated people into all offices, markets and business establishments, and from driving their vehicles or riding vehicles of public conveyances is utterly baffling.
In the first place, what law this order was based on?
None. No law authorizes any local governments to discriminate between the healthy and unvaccinated. While the government reserves the right to curtail the right to travel of the unhealthy persons, the legal presumption is that an unvaccinated person is healthy. So, why restrict the movement of the unvaccinated?
Depriving the unvaccinated of their civil rights is not only questionable. It is unconscionable.
By curtailing the civil rights of the unvaccinated persons, I presume the government expects them to get the jabs. If this is not forced vaccination, then it is coercion.
The argument that if the unvaccinated persons have the right to make decisions over their body, then the government has the right to protect the general welfare is not only fallacious but unscientific.
Why the need to protect the vaccinated from the unvaccinated persons when, in the first place, the former has the protection of the vaccine. It is the latter group that are vulnerable when they are in the crowd with the vaccinated persons, not the other way around.
Let’s put it straight. It is not the business of a democratic government to curtail the rights of the people especially over decisions about what to do with their body without due process.
Even the “mandatory vaccination” for public and private employees (IATF Resolutions 148b and 149, series of 2021) and requiring unvaccinated employees of bi-weekly tests are legally questionable. To exhort people to get the jabs for their own good, fine. But it is wrong to make it mandatory.
There are certain conditions where the government is allowed to intrude into the constitutional rights of the people. Take note, certain conditions only. So far, the Congress has not enacted a law allowing the national or local governments to curtail the rights of its citizens.
To the contrary, there is an actual legal penalty under RA 11494 (Bayanihan II) for acts that discriminate against any person or group of persons in relation to COVID-19 measures. This provision guarantees that any person, public or private, who committed discrimination against any person or persons can be imprisoned for six months and has to pay a fine of P100,000.
Also, Section 12 of RA 11525 stipulates that vaccination cards are not a requirement for any person or persons to government or business transactions. The law specifically declares not to consider a vaccinated person immune from COVID-19.
It is clear that the government cannot demand mandatory vaccination under the guise of issuing a no vaccine card, no entry/ transaction policy. It is simply an anachronism to the modern-day progress of democracy.
Antonio M. Manaytay is an awardee of Aries Rufo Media Fellowship. He is the CEO of Mindanao-Sun News Services and Editor-in-Chief of The Sun Monitor.