Some presidential aspirants on Wednesday expressed disapproval of the government’s move to curtail the mobility of unvaccinated people amid the latest spike in COVID-19 cases.
The camps of Vice President Leni Robredo, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, Sen Panfilo Lacson and labor leader Leody de Guzman all opposed the Department of Transportation’s proposed travel ban against the unvaccinated in Metro Manila.
Former Sen. Bongbong Marcos’ spokesman, Atty. Vic Rodriguez, on the other hand, described the DOTr’s policy as “certainly founded on sufficient valuable data”.
“We firmly maintain that the policy on vaccination should be to inform and incentivize rather than to penalize,” said Robredo’s spokesman, Atty. Barry Gutierrez.
“Similarly, free mass testing and improved contact tracing are key in controlling transmission of the virus.”
Pacquiao shared the sentiment.
“Ako po ay nanawagan sa DILG, sa PNP, sa DoTr at sa ating mga LGU na huwag naman po sana nating pilitin ang ating mga kababayan na magpabakuna kung ito ay labag sa kanilang paniniwala. Kumbinsihin po natin sila at pagpaliwanagan ngunit huwag natin silang pilitin,” Pacquiao said.
“Huwag po natin silang ituring na parang mga kriminal. Huwag po natin silang putulan ng karapatan na makapagtrabaho o makapamili ng kanilang mga pangangailangan.”
(I call on the DILG, PNP, DoTr and our LGUs not to force people into taking vaccines if they think this goes against their beliefs. Let us convince them by explaining, not forcing them. Let’s not treat them as criminals. Do not curtail their right to work or buy their basic necessities.)
De Guzman stressed the government’s order has no legal standing, and therefore it curtails the public’s right to transportation.
He added that the government is making the people pay for its supposed failure to handle the pandemic.
“Pilit nitong sinisisi ang mga hindi bakunado gayong pinalpak nito ang paghatid sa atin sa “new normal”. Matapos ang dalawang taon at bilyong bilyong inutang, malayo pa rin tayo sa new normal,” said De Guzman.
(They insist on blaming those who are not vaccinated, instead of blaming themselves for failing to guide us to the new normal. After two years and billions and billions of loans, we are still far from the new normal.)
De Guzman’s running mate Walden Bello said repression is definitely not the way to solve the matter. The vice presidential aspirant called the DoTr’s move as “stupid.”
“The no vaxx, no ride policy is draconian and stupid. Yes, vaxx certificates should be checked, but segregation, not repression is the answer, as in the case of restaurants. Unvaccinated people should be able to ride buses and public transportation specifically designated for them, just as in restaurants.,” Bello said.
“There is already a negative incentive here, since unvaxxed people have to wait longer for special buses, but it is not draconian and repressive. More broadly, financial incentives like a P1000 award for complete vaccination are preferable to draconian methods, which often don’t work.”
For his part, Lacson said the government still has to address the lack of available vaccines.
He pointed out that there are people willing to get jabbed but still have no access to vaccines. They, too, will be affected by the travel ban, said Lacson.
“First, it begs the question – are there enough vaccine doses available even for the willing? If not, it’s unfair. Indiscriminately punishing even the willing but have no choice due to government shortcomings in providing for their protection should first be taken into consideration before taking a drastic action of possibly denying those people their means of livelihood to feed their families,” he said.
“It is a different matter altogether if vaccines are available to all. By all means, we have the right to be insulated from a higher risk of infection. At least both sides have an option.”
The camp of Marcos, in backing the DOTr’s policy, noted the “indubitable” data regarding the “exponential increase in the number of Covid-19 infection(s)”.
“The government’s response to observe extreme caution is but a necessary consequence when the health and safety of the general public are at stake,” Rodriguez, the chief of staff and spokesman of Marcos, said in a statement.
But as they “sincerely adhere and agree to these enhanced restrictions on the movement of unvaccinated persons,” they urged government to “further expand and bring the national vaccination program against Covid19 closer to the people, if possible, to their very doorsteps.”
“Our people need to have jobs and to work for them to bring food on their table, send children to school and provide for other essential family needs but at the same time we recognize the government tough act of balancing the scales of health and economy,” said Rodriguez.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier ordered barangay officials to stop unvaccinated residents from going out of their homes for non-essential reasons.