Philippine Leader Orders Home Detention for Unvaccinated People

Jojo Riñoza and Jeoffrey Maitem
Manila
2021-07-29
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Philippine Leader Orders Home Detention for Unvaccinated People Philippine police officers check vehicles passing through a road block in Opol, a town in Misamis Oriental province, southern Philippines, June 2, 2021.
Froilan Gallardo/BenarNews

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered village chiefs nationwide to detain unvaccinated people inside their homes as a way to prevent a highly contagious COVID-19 variant from spreading, prompting a lawyers group to question the legality of such a move.

The Delta strain is more aggressive than the original COVID-19 virus detected in Wuhan, China, Duterte warned his countrymen in a late-night public address Wednesday. Other Southeast Asian countries were back to square one in trying to contain the variant, he emphasized. 

“This Delta variant is causing so [many] scary stories for us. It is four times more aggressive, transmissibility is faster than the usual COVID-19. This is scary,” Duterte said in his speech.

“Those who do not want to be vaccinated, I am telling you, do not leave your home because I will ask the police to detain you at home,” he said. “You will be escorted back to your house because you are a walking spreader.” 

Police, he said, would be backed by village chiefs, who would go around communities “to see who are vaccinated and who are not.” Village chiefs, including those in Metro Manila and other urban areas and towns, are the lowest-level administrative officials who can enforce such an order.

Duterte’s order could not be “legally justified,” said Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.

“Restricting movements may be acceptable only if it is pursuant to a reasonable and proportionate regulation in the interest of public health,” he told BenarNews. 

“And while we agree that firm – not strongman – measures must be employed to arrest the pandemic, invoking the law of necessity is dangerous as it is can be nebulous and can be subjective and arbitrary, and therefore, open to abuse,” he said.

Duterte acknowledged that there was no law preventing people from leaving their homes but, he stressed, the pandemic warranted such action.

“We do not have a law, a punitive action that can be taken against the person who does not have the vaccine and goes around making it dangerous for others to acquire the virus,” he said. 

“Should I wait for a law when there are many dying? There is no law, but the law of necessity is there,” he said. 

If police and village chiefs meet resistance, he advised them to say they were carrying out “the mayor’s order.” He was referring to when he served as mayor of southern Davao city, where, rights groups claimed, he had ordered the killings of dozens of criminals and alleged drug addicts. 

Duterte also said he was willing to help local officials, should they be sued for the new policy.

“I will assume full responsibility for that,” he said. 

Vaccines

Despite efforts by the government to push its inoculation program, only about 6.8 million of the nation’s 105 million people have been fully vaccinated.

The Delta strain, first detected in India earlier this year, is adding to COVID-19 infections in the Philippines, according to OCTA Research Group scientists who earlier this week advised the capital region to implement an ultra-strict lockdown.  

In its daily bulletin, the health department reported it had detected 97 additional cases of the Delta variant, including 88 infected in the Philippines, as opposed to those who caught the virus abroad before arriving in the country. The Philippines has recorded 216 Delta cases that have resulted in eight deaths. 

On Thursday, the department recorded 5,735 new COVID-19 infections – the most since April – bringing the nation’s cumulative caseload to 1.57 million. The official death toll from the coronavirus pandemic also rose to more than 27,500.

Mark Navales contributed to this report from Cotabato, Philippines.

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