The Supreme Court (SC) has been asked to declare as unconstitutional the government’s “no vaccination, no ride” policy, despite it was already lifted implemented when the National Capital Region (NCR) was still under COVID-19 Alert Level 3 last January and subsequently lifted last Feb. 1 when NCR was deescalated to Alert Level 2.
In a petition filed on Wednesday, the PASAHERO party-list stressed that the SC that the policy and other government measures allegedly discriminate Filipinos who are unvaccinated against COVID-19.
“The ban on unvaccinated passengers from using public transportation was effective for a period of less than a month, a duration too short for the issues subject of this Petition to be fully litigated,” the group argued.
“Moreover, there is a reasonable expectation that the Petitioners will again be subjected to the same ban of using public transportation. The nature of COVID-19 as a disease which constantly evolves has compelled the Philippine Government to revert to a more stringent Alert Level 3, as shown by the government’s actions in the past three months,” it added.
Aside from the PASAHERO party-list, the two other petitioners are Marcelino Dela Cruz Jr. and Leonardo A. Lituania who, the petition stated, are both unvaccinated individuals.
Named respondents are Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, and Romando P. Artes as officer-in-charge of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
“The ‘no vaccination, no ride’ policy, as contained in Department Order No. 2022-001 issued by the Department of Transportation (DOTr), prohibits unvaccinated people from public jeepneys, taxis, buses, sea ferries and commercial planes to and from the NCR.”
They said the policy “violates the constitutional right to travel of ordinary Filipino citizens who have the freedom of choice of whether to get vaccinated,” the group said.
The petitioner also assailed similar resolutions issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the MMDA which, they claimed, “allowed the discrimination of unvaccinated individuals.”
These issuances were identified in their petition as IATF Resolution No. 148-B Series of 2021 and MMDA Resolution No. 22-01 Series of 2022.
They said “the IATF resolution encourages public and private establishments to either refuse entry and deny service to individuals who remain to be unvaccinated or are merely partially vaccinated, while the MMDA resolution prohibits unvaccinated individuals from domestic travel via public transportation within the NCR, as well as domestic travel to and outside the region for work-related purposes.”
“Through the existence of MMDA Resolution No. 22-01 and DOTr DO No. 2022-001, they will always stand to be deprived of their most basic rights to travel and earn a living by reason of them being unvaccinated,” the party-list said.
On legal grounds, the petitioners told the SC that the measures “violate their most basic right to life, liberty and property, and to their right to travel.”
“No person should be denied their fundamental rights by reason of their personal choice to not get the COVID-19 vaccine,” they said.
Because of this, they said, the measures are “patent nullity and unconstitutional” for they violate Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution “in that the Filipinos were deprived of their right to life and liberty without due process of law.”
Apart from violating the right to life and liberty, the petitioners said the assailed measures transgress Article III, Sec. 6 of the 1987 Constitution, which provides that “neither shall the right to travel be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law.”
They said the “no vaccination, no ride” policy “caused serious and grave hardships to Filipino who are unvaccinated.”
“This case involving the most basic right to refuse any invasive form of medical treatment, including the introduction of a vaccine, poses serious questions for the public welfare and is demanded by the broader interest of justice,” they said.
“Even though one can argue that vaccines are safe and will aid in preventing serious symptoms on the part of the vaccinee, a greater principle involving the right to choose which medicines to take or
inject, takes precedence over such policy,” it added.