President Rodrigo Duterte is urging Congress to pass a law requiring Filipinos to get fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said lawmakers should take a cue from the Chief Executive who warned on Monday night that he can invoke the state’s police power to compel anti-coronavirus vaccination on those who refuse to do so.
“As long as there is a law, we can implement that,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.
Asked to clarify if Duterte’s new pronouncement meant he was urging Congress to pass a law compelling the public to get vaccinated, he responded in the affirmative.
“Yes, of course,” he said. “That’s the jurisdiction of Congress, but the President can always certify an administration bill for such a law.”
The Palace official also noted that several countries have turned to vaccine mandates to increase vaccination rates.
“The state really has the power to use police power to promote the good of the majority. But when it comes to the vaccine, let us wait, because we need a policy first,” he said.
In his televised address on Monday night, Duterte reinforced his strongman reputation once again by reminding the public that the government can compel everyone to get vaccinated through police force.
“I do not want to advance this theory, but under the police power of the state, everybody can be compelled to be vaccinated — not because we do not believe in your theory or belief or your religion, but because you are a [virus] carrier and a danger to society,” the Chief Executive said.
Duterte noted that the government has long been appealing to Filipinos to immediately receive Covid-19 jabs once it becomes available.
What was noticeably absent during his recent public address was the fact that many Filipinos have yet to receive the coveted shots due to limited supply.
Some local government units in areas outside Metro Manila even suspended their respective Covid-19 vaccination programs because of supply constraints.
Duterte has approved the vaccination of children and the general adult population against Covid-19 starting October, according to Roque.
Around 69.62 million doses of anti-coronavirus vaccines have been shipped to the Philippines since March, and the government is expecting the arrival of up to 100,000 vaccine doses by the end of October.
Six months after the country rolled out its inoculation program, only 18.6 percent of its population have been fully vaccinated, which accounts for 20.5 million Filipinos.
The figure remains far from the government’s target of immunizing 50 to 70 percent of its 110 million citizens by the end of the year to achieve population protection.