Lawyers should also be included in the priority list of persons who get vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
This was the plea aired by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in a letter to the chairman of the National Task Force against COVID-19 (NTF) and Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana.
In his letter last March 30, IBP President Domingo Egon Q. Cayosa requested Lorenzana that “lawyers be included in the priority population group A4 (frontline personnel in essential public and private sectors that are directly client facing and cannot dutifully meet minimum public health standards) of the Philippine National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 Vaccines.”
Cayosa said that courts and tribunals where lawyers and their clients frequent “have been proven spreaders of the COVID-19 virus.”
“Quite a number of judges, prosecutors and practicing lawyers have succumbed to the COVID-19 virus, despite repeated safe or area lockdowns and travel restrictions,” he said.
“The legal frontliners are particularly at risk and should be similarly protected,” he pointed out.
He stressed that the IBP has been involved “in encouraging our countrymen to cooperate with government authorities in addressing the health emergency.”
“IBP officers, members and Chapters all over our country have been proactively supporting COVID 19 patients, health workers, and frontliners and we effectively collaborated with government agencies and local government units in educating the public about laws and ordinances pertaining to the pandemic,” he said.
“More importantly, the presence of preferred counsel is constitutionally required especially for those charged with criminal offenses, and lawyers are deemed essential ‘officers of the court’ in their mandate to dispense justice, maintain peace and order, and safeguard public welfare under the rule of law,” he added.
The NTF has already listed all the around 30,000 officials and employees of the judiciary in the A4 priority group.
Portions of the vaccines arriving this April will be allocated for the judiciary.
The NTF acted on the letter request of the Supreme Court (SC) dated March 31 which stated that “justices, judges, and court personnel of the Philippine Judiciary (comprised of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Court of Tax Appeals, Sandiganbayan, and trial courts) are frontline government workers in the justice sector, whose functions are essential at all times, especially during the pandemic.”