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CHR fears bias vs ‘unvaxed’ ones

The Commission on Human Rights said Friday with scarce supply of COVID-19 vaccines, this might result in extreme discrimination against people still unvaccinated who have been forced to stay home.

The CHR recognized that preventing transmission and mitigating the effects of the coronavirus to individuals, households and businesses must be a shared national priority of the government.

“Vaccination against COVID-19 is one of the most important steps in easing out of this pandemic, alongside the recommended test, trace, and treat strategy,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.

“The reality, however, is that vaccine supply remains to be a challenge. At the same time, certain populations also experience vaccine hesitancy due to various reasons, including receiving wrong information on vaccines and its effects,” she added.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the government might impose restrictions for unvaccinated Filipinos to contain the further spread of the COVID-19 virus and promote the general welfare and public health.

President Duterte recently said that he could not wait for a law to punish unvaccinated Filipinos and he wanted police and barangay chairmen to restrict the movement of people who would not want to get vaccinated against COVID-19 virus.

“It is well within the power of the State to restrict the movement of unvaccinated individuals. However, a law must be passed if the government wants to punish, arrest or jail those unvaccinated from going out,” Drilon said.

“It is a valid and reasonable exercise of police power to promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the people. The general welfare clause also provides sufficient authority to the State to implement measures for the ‘maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and promotion of the general welfare,’” Drilon explained.

As  of June 29, reports suggested that only 6.66 percent of the population, or about 7.2 million Filipinos, have been fully vaccinated, and only 10.48 percent,  or about 11.43 million, of the population have received their first dose.  (See full story online at manilastandard.net)

“With all these challenges, preventing unvaccinated individuals from leaving their homes may result in undue discrimination considering that there are reasons for being unvaccinated that are beyond their control. The country has yet to vaccinate other priority groups, including indigent populations not covered by the A1-A4 category,” De Guia said.

“Such restrictions will ultimately have an impact on their abilities to cope with the effects of the pandemic, including effects to livelihoods and ability to fend for themselves in the absence of explicit proposals for aid while in isolation,” she noted.

According to De Guia, the Siracusa Principles, guidelines adopted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 1984, also prescribed that restricting human rights in times of states of emergency, such as a pandemic, must not only be based on necessity, but should also be lawful and proportionate to its goal. 

These principles also cite that policies restricting human rights—in this case, freedom of movement—must be based on scientific evidence; neither arbitrary nor discriminatory; and should especially be mindful of its possible disproportionate impacts to marginalized populations. 

“Together with the entire nation, CHR continues to look forward to the end of the pandemic. But as we struggle and survive, CHR reminds the government that human rights must continue to be at the centre of all its efforts. Ending the pandemic is, after all, in pursuit of the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health—a fundamental human right,” De Guia stressed.  

“We then urge the government to address issues on vaccine supply and hesitancy, as well as improving the overall health system of the country to cover testing, tracing, and treatment of COVID-19 cases, in responding to this pandemic. Quarantine is one strategy. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven itself to be a complex threat to everyone. Our response has to be holistic and mindful that we need to heal and recover together, and not leave anyone behind,” she said.

Drilon said: “The State may also interfere with personal liberty to promote the general welfare as long as the interference is reasonable and not arbitrary,” the former justice secretary stressed.

“It is correct that those unvaccinated should stay home. If they go out, the process of escorting them back to their homes is a reasonable exercise of state power to protect public health,” he added.

Sen. Aquilino  Pimentel III said this was a way to  encourage the "vaccination of the willing and instill in the public's mind  there are mandatory health protocols to be observed which experts say already reduce the possibility of transmission by "more than 90 percent.” 

"We enforce these rules, we encourage people (regardless of vaccination status) to stay at home unless the activity.

Meanwhile, the Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) on Friday shipped to Manila the additional one million doses of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine from Beijing.

The latest batch, part of the 26 million doses procured by the Philippine government from China, landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 around 7:38 a.m. aboard CEB chartered Flight 5J-723.

CEB has now transported a total of 16.5 million doses from China to the Philippines since April 2021.  

"We are grateful to continue contributing to our nation’s fight against COVID-19 through the safe and timely shipment of these vaccines from abroad and across the country,” said Alex Reyes, CEB chief strategy officer. 

“We will keep supporting the government in its inoculation and distribution efforts," he added.   

The doses were immediately transported to Pharmaserv Express’ cold-chain facility in Marikina City for temporary storage before they are delivered to various parts of the country.

Topics: Commission on Human Rights , COVID-19 , Cebu Pacific Air , Jacqueline Ann de Guia
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