ARGAO, Cebu - Presidential candidate Panfilo Lacson and vice presidential candidate Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday hit Health Secretary Francisco Duque III for "passing the burden" to Congress after floating the idea of a law for mandatory vaccination.
"Ipinapasa niya sa amin ang burden. You cannot impose. Sasabihin mo political will. Hindi applicable ang political will kapag violation na ng human rights ang involved," Lacson told reporters in an ambush interview here.
(He is passing on to us the burden. You cannot impose. You say it's political will. But political will is not applicable if violation of human rights is involved.)
The presidentiable explained that forcing vaccination is a violation of human rights.
"I do believe na 'yung ipo-force mo ang vaccination sa tao ay violation na ng human rights, 'yung basic rights and freedom ng mga kababayan natin kung anong gusto niyang gawin sa katawan niya," he said.
(I do believe that forcing vaccination is a violation of human rights, the basic rights and freedom to decide on what to do with one's body.)
Lacson further pointed out that the house-to-house vaccination, which was recently ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte, should have been done at the start of the vaccination program.
"Dapat ang ginawa niya noon pa at the start of the vaccination program, noon pa sila nag-house to house, noon pa sila nag-massive information campaign about the vaccine. Hindi 'yung ngayon dahil mag-e-expire ang 27 million doses ipapasa pa niya sa Congress parang exercise the political will," he quipped.
(What should have been done was that at the start of the vaccination program, the house-to-house vaccination and massive information campaign about the vaccine was conducted. Not now that 27 million doses [of COVID-19 vaccines] are set to expire and the burden was passed to Congress to exercise the political will.)
"There is no political will. It can't be justified. Maski anong political will ang pag-uusapan kung magba-violate ka na ng human rights hindi na tama 'yun. There's no such thing. It's not applicable," he added.
(There is no political will. It can't be justified. Any talk of political will is not right if human rights will be violated. There's no such thing. It's not applicable.)
For his part, Sotto said Duque's suggestion is just for "media mileage" as the 18th Congress has no time to pass a law for mandatory vaccination.
"You know what I think? It's media mileage. Bakit? Alam naman niyang six days na lang ang natitira sa amin ah, magko-convert pa kami into the National Canvassing Board," Sotto said.
(Why? He knows Congress only has six days left. Congress will still be converted into the National Canvassing Board.)
"Anong batas ang pinagsasabi nila? Ang may pag-asa lang ang naka-pending sa amin on the second reading na puwede nang matapos on third reading. So, I think media mileage na lang ng [Department of Health] 'yan. Nagpe-face saving dahil ang dami nilang sinabit mula noong March 2020 hanggang ngayon," he added.
(What law are they talking about? The only ones that may be passed are those pending on second reading and can proceed to third reading. So, I think [the Department of Health] is just going for media mileage. It's face saving since they had a lot of blunders starting March 2022 up to now.)
In a briefing with Duterte aired Tuesday night, Duque said it would be a welcome development if Congress passed a measure that would make vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory.
“Although we would welcome Mr. President, if the Senate or Congress, if they can muster that will – political will – to make vaccination and booster (shots) a mandatory like in other countries,” the Health chief said.
Duque also asked candidates to include in their platform the importance of getting COVID-19 jabs.
Although Lacson said they are already doing Duque's suggestion and it is part of their "civic duty," the presidential candidate pointed out that encouraging the public to get vaccines is an Executive Department's function.
GMA News Online contacted Duque for comment but has yet to receive a reply as of posting time.
Over the weekend, a presidential adviser disclosed that some 27 million COVID-19 vaccines are set to expire in three months. —with a report from Giselle Ombay/KG, GMA News