As some decried the no vaccination, no ride policy of the government, a constitutional law expert on Monday said that individual freedoms are not absolute under certain conditions.
“Under extreme circumstances of national security, public good, public health, under certain condition, 'yung gobyerno may obligasyon at kapangyarihan nitong limitahan 'yung ating mga individual freedoms,” Atty. Domingo Cayosa, former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, told Balitanghali.
Under the new policy, only fully vaccinated individuals in the National Capital Region may board public transportation while the region is under Alert Level 3 or higher.
However, Cayosa stressed that the policy must first be properly crafted with clear penalties and guidelines and that there should be due process.
“So kung ganyan, dapat ‘yan dadaan either sa Kongreso o sa mga local government council para sa ganon clear, consistent, equal ang application at hindi yung nakaraan na kanya-kanyang interpretasyon yung mga enforcers,” he said.
(If it’s like that, it should go through Congress or local government council so that the application is clear, consistent, and equal.)
Cayosa said that the Department of Transportation should have consulted concerned sectors before implementing the policy.
“Bago ka magbaba ng ganyang mga patakaran na sakop lahat, applicable to all, the rule requires na may public hearing, may publication,” Cayosa added.
(Before you implement such a policy that involves all and is applicable to all, the rule requires that there should be a public hearing and a publication.)
“Para marinig lahat ng panig ng bawat sector, there will be sections mai-clarify at maabisuhan ang taong bayan. Hindi yung bigla na lang naisip isang gabi and then gagawin na,” he added.
(This is so we can hear the side of every sector, there will be sections that will be clarified and the public will be advised. We cannot have policies that are crafted overnight and implemented the next day.)
He urged concerned agencies to iron out the details of the enforcement of the policy.
“Kasi nga po kung titignan natin ngayon, iba iba ang level of enforcement depende sa LGU. Meron tayong senator at mga LGU executives hindi naniniwalang gawin yan,” he said.
(Because if we look at it right now, there is a different level of enforcement per LGU. Some senators and LGU executives also don’t believe that this should be done.)
“So we cannot encourage compliance and respect for the law kung iba-iba. Mas maganda sana kung ayusin muna,” he added.
(So we cannot encourage compliance and respect for the law if there are differing opinions. It’s better if it is fixed first.)
He also said he hoped that authorities will enforce the policy with compassion and understanding.
DOTr Undersecretary Artemio Tuazon Jr. has said that the agency would be "very tolerant but firm" in the first few days of the implementation of the policy.
For his part, DOTr Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Rainier Paul Yebre stood pat on the legal basis of the policy.
Citing the 1987 Consitution, Yebre said it is the state’s obligation to protect the health of the public.
Further, he said President Rodrigo Duterte has directed to restrict the movement of people who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 in Metro Manila, which is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Yebre said the Metro Manila Council also released a resolution in which unvaccinated individuals in the NCR are 'prohibited from domestic travel via public transportation by land, sea, and air.”
“Nireregulate po namin para sa common good kung baga… hindi naman po absolute yung no vaccination, no ride, no entry policy. Meron naman po nakalagay doon na exemptions,” he said.
(We regulate for the common good… the no vaccination, no ride, no entry policy is not absolute. There are exemptions.)
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.
Likewise, those going to vaccination centers are also exempted from the policy as their travel is considered for medical purposes.
The undersecretary also stressed that the policy does not cover individuals using bicycles.
The DOTr has 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.”—LDF, GMA News