Aside from cleaning the ranks of PhilHealth as a means of ensuring the success of Universal Health Care Act, another priority agenda is the creation of a national quarantine law. The national quarantine law will pave the way for the establishment of a policy-making body composed of experts from the fields of public health, infectious diseases, health economics, and public policy. They will be responsible for determining policies in dealing with pandemics.
While we have done a good job through the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), the reality is that decision making among all heads of cabinets is simply too cumbersome, slow, and rather unscientific.
The composition of the policy-making body of a permanent IATF should be experts, that is, interdisciplinary experts in the fields of health economics, medicine, public policy, and local governance.
Moreover, the national quarantine law will identify the minimum health standards and corresponding penalties for those who will defy them. Presently, the problem is that both compliance and enforcement are handled by the local government units (LGU). Unless the various LGU enact ordinances in order to implement the minimum health standards and enforce the corresponding penalties, we cannot minimize the health risks among the people.
The national quarantine law can also impose mandatory vaccination for infectious diseases identified by medical experts.
Incidentally, I disagree with Persida Acosta’s view on the “No-Vax, No-Ride” policy. Since time immemorial, our courts have recognized the police power of the state to enforce conducts that are beneficial to public health.
There may be no law prescribing the “No-Vax, No-Ride” policy, but there is no law anyway for the exercise of the inherent power of the state. Without a doubt, the promotion of public health has long been recognized as a very valid basis for the exercise of police power.
Again, police power, like the power of taxation and eminent domain are inherent powers of the state. No legislation is required for the exercise of those powers.
In any case, I agree that in order to provide a criminal penalty for those who refuse to be vaccinated, a law is necessary pursuant to nullum crimen, nulla poena sine lege.
This is not the case, however, for the exercise of certain rights, such as the right to use public transportation, the right to enter close spaces, or the right to even leave one’s home. These are not penal in nature; therefore, the maxim of the principle of legality does not apply.
In any case, the proposed national quarantine law will make it clear under what circumstances a person’s refusal to be vaccinated may be meted criminal penalty. In addition to this, the provision of the Universal Health Care Law providing for registration with personal physicians as first port of call whenever a citizen becomes sick must be fully implemented soon. Regrettably, the implementation of this provision has been delayed by the pandemic.
I hope that with the pandemic coming to an end soon, people can register with their primary physician so that we can actually implement Universal Health Care as we envisioned it.
The bottom line is this.
In time of pandemic, priority must be given to the promotion of public health. This means freedom from both the disease itself and freedom from the consequent poverty arising from its consequences.
This is the primary platform that I will advocate in the Senate, should I get elected. I promise, as I have said in the television advertisement, that I will lead the people in demanding the right to health and the right to food and livelihood.