‘No legal basis to arrest’ unvaccinated persons who leave their homes -- NUPL


President Duterte cannot prevent persons who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from leaving their homes, a lawyers’ group said on Thursday, July 29.

“There is no legal basis to arrest, much less detain, an unvaccinated person because this circumstance is not a crime nor a misdemeanor that is penalized by any law or ordinance,” National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) President Edre U. Olalia said in a statement.

Olalia said: “Restricting movements may be acceptable only if it is pursuant to a reasonable and proportionate regulation in the interest of valid reasons like public health. But this kind of restriction must not amount to actual prohibition especially under pain of punishment, which is open to legal challenge. Prohibition is different from regulation.”

He reacted to President Duterte’s statement last Wednesday, July 28, that he (the President) ordered police and barangay officials not to allow to go out of their homes those who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Olalia explained that the NUPL is not opposed to getting the population vaccinated.

“Firm -- not strongarm -- measures must be employed to arrest the pandemic, invoking ‘law of necessity’ is dangerous as it is nebulous and can be subjective and arbitrary and, therefore, open to abuse and misuse.”

He then asked “whether there is adequate and continuous supply of vaccines and whether their rollouts are efficiently and equitably distributed in a prompt manner through proper prioritization.”

“The long queues and eagerness of many who are still waiting to be vaccinated soonest apparently militate against the invasive prescription of curtailing freedom of movement for legitimate reasons,” he pointed out.

“To impose coercive and punitive consequences on such an act or omission that is essentially voluntary and consensual, no matter how imprudent or inadvisable this act or omission may be, will not really solve the problem decisively but only result in the side effect of another jab at civil liberties,” he stressed.