No law on mandatory vaccination; movement restriction of unvaxxed not absolute – Guevarra

Published January 18, 2022, 12:49 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra

There is no law that compels every Filipino to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and there is no absolute restriction on the movement of unvaccinated persons, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

Guevarra said:

“The unvaccinated are not absolutely prohibited from availing themselves of public transport, provided that they have passes to show that they are out to obtain essential goods and services, such as food and medicine; or that they have medical certifications showing that they could not be vaccinated for medical or health reasons.

“Common carriers are indeed open to everyone, but under our existing laws operators of common carriers are bound to carry their passengers safely to their destinations, and ‘safely’ means freedom not only from accidental injury but also from transmissible diseases.

“Note, finally, that these measures are time-bound (only while the NCR (National Capital Region) is under Alert Level 3 or higher), and are not meant to be adopted in places with very low vaccination rates.”

The government, through the Department of Transportation (DOTr), implemented last Monday, Jan. 17, the “no vaccination, no ride” policy in the NCR.

In enforcing the policy, DOTr said it has partnered with the Inter-Agency Council on Traffic, Department of Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police, Highway Patrol Group, and the Metro Manila Development Authority.

Guevarra also said:

“With respect to the DOTr, its authority emanates directly from the Administrative Code (EO 292) and indirectly from Republic Act No. 11332 (Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases) as a member of the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases).

“Furthermore, considering that these measures are temporary and limited in geographical scope, local ordinances will be sufficient.

“The underlying classification is between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, and between them a huge and substantial distinction exists.

“More than three out of four who get hospitalized are unvaccinated, and more than three out of four who die of COVID-19 are unvaccinated.”

Guevarra’s statements were issued when he was asked to comment on the confession of Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida V. Rueda Acosta that she is not vaccinated against COVID.

Guevarra said: “At present there is no law in our country making anti-COVID vaccination mandatory. To that extent, PAO Chief Acosta has the legal right to refuse vaccination.”

“In short, a person may refuse to get vaccinated for his/her own personal reasons, but he/she is duty-bound to obey reasonable state regulations affecting unvaccinated persons for the benefit of society at large,” he stressed.