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No vax, no ride policy in NCR unconstitutional — PAO’s Acosta

The recent policy requiring commuters to present their vaccination cards before boarding public vehicles is unconstitutional and discriminatory, Public Attorneys Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta said Monday.

"I think the policy of the LGUs is highly unconstitutional and against the law," Acosta told ANC.

Acosta cited Republic Act 11525 which states that vaccine cards “shall not be considered an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment, and other similar government transaction purposes.”

“And yet they are circumventing. Lalabag nila ‘yung batas indirectly para mapiitan kang magpabakuna. You need magpabakuna para pasakayin ka. Ano ‘yun pinupwersa,” Acosta said.

(And yet they are circumventing. You will indirectly violate the law so you will be forced to get vaccinated. You need to get vaccinated so you will be able to board. You are being forced.)

New policy

Under the new policy, only full vaccinated individuals in the National Capital Region may board public transportation vehicles while the region is under Alert Level 3 or higher. Alert Level 3 is currently in effect in NCR until January 31.

Exemptions to the policy include persons with medical conditions that prevent their full COVID-19 vaccination as proven by a duly-signed medical certificate with the name and contact details of their doctor.

Another exemption is those who will buy essential goods and services, such as but not limited to food, water, medicine, medical devices, public utilities, energy, work, and medical and dental necessities, as shown by a duly issued barangay health pass or other proof to justify the travel.

Despite these, Acosta maintained that the policy is unconstitutional.

“That’s unconstitutional because the Bill of Rights, Section 1 states that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, and property without due process of law,” she said.

“You know you are discriminating against the unvaccinated and then you are just favoring the vaccinated. You let them ride and then the unvaccinated anong gagawin, maglalakad?” she added.

She also cited the patient’s rights in the Department of Health portal.

“May karapatan ang pasyente na tumanggi sa bakuna at tumanggi sa ano mang medicine dahil ang katawang ito pagaari mo mismo, hindi pagaari ng gobyerno ang katawan mo,” she said.

(Patients have the right to refuse vaccinees and medicine because they own their bodies, the government does not own their bodies.)

According to the PAO chief, the public has the right to refuse to become an “experimental pig.”

“Dahil inamin ng gobyerno sa batas na ito, nasusulat, state recognizes the experimental nature of COVID vaccine and will compensate serious adverse effects,” she said.

(The government said it recognizes the experimental nature of the vaccine and will compensate serious adverse effects.)

Health officials have repeatedly stressed the safety and benefits of the vaccination against COVID-19 and compliance with minimum public health standards.

The Food and Drug Administration also previously said most of the adverse events following immunization were mild.

At present, the government has fully vaccinated 55.1 million Filipinos while around 58.8 million have received at least one dose.

Acosta said authorities should instead explain to the public the benefits of getting vaccinated as well as inform them of the risks.

“Pag magkasakit kayo, sagot kayo ng mayor, wala kayong problema… Ang problema ng tao pangbili ng pagkain, paano pa ‘yung pang pa-ospital. Explain nila ‘yung beauty of the vaccine,” she said.

(If individuals get sick, the local government should pay… the public already has troubling paying for food, what more for hospitalization. They should explain the beauty of the vaccine.)

“Ngayon, kung hindi kumbinsido ang tao pa rin, abay hayaan niyo siya mag desisyon, siya ang mananagot noon,” she added.

(Now, if they are not convinced, they should be allowed to decide.)

GMA News Online has sought comment from the DOTr but has yet to receive a reply as of posting time. 

The DOTr previously said the policy was made “to protect all — whether vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals – to safeguard those that are most at risk, our healthcare system, and our exhausted medical workers amid the recent surge of COVID-19 cases recorded in the country.”

In answer to comments that the policy is “anti-poor, draconian or punitive,” the agency said it believes that “it is more anti-poor and anti-life if we will not impose interventions that will prevent loss of life due to non-vaccination.”

— RSJ, GMA News