PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte can wield his “constitutional command” to order the mandatory inoculation of Filipinos against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said on Wednesday.
This, after Duterte on Monday threatened to order the arrest of people who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as they could be “potential carriers” of the coronavirus.
In a press statement, Panelo defended Duterte’s warning, saying the Chief Executive’s statement is “not without any constitutional basis”.
Citing Article 2, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution, Panelo said “the prime duty of the government is to serve and protect the people”.
“Thus, with the prime duty of the government to serve and protect the people — as constitutionally enshrined in Article 2, Section 4 — the President as its head is charged with the obligation to do what is necessary to comply with the constitutional command,” he said.
Enabling law not needed
On Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Malacañang may ask Congress to pass a measure that would make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory.
Panelo, however, said there is no need to push for an “enabling” law to enforce the constitutional provisions on public health since these are already “operative”.
He also cited the Supreme Court’s previous ruling that the provisions of the 1987 Constitution relating to the promotion of health is “self-executory and do not require any enabling law”.
“Constitutional provisions on public health, by themselves, are operative and need no subsequent legislation for their enforcement,” Panelo said.
‘Drastic’ measures necessary
Amid the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, the government needs to take “drastic” steps to stop the further transmission of the coronavirus, Panelo said.
Panelo emphasized that while individual choice or liberties are to be respected, the security of the nation is “paramount”.
“Hence, its (the nation) survival must be fiercely protected,” he said. “We are in a state of national emergency due to the deathly pandemic. Drastic times demand for drastic measures.”
Panelo said the Constitution has given Duterte and his administration “sufficient” authority to manage the COVID-19 crisis.
A ‘grave’ threat
Some have claimed that Duterte has no legal basis to order the mandatory inoculation of COVID-19 vaccines.
They have also argued that the government’s approach must be science-based.
Panelo, however, said Covid-19 poses a “grave” threat to everyone.
He also cited the government’s data which showed that over one million people in the country have already been infected with COVID-19.
“Beyond doubt, the real danger of infection from COVID-19, together with its probability of causing deaths, poses a grave threat to the health and life of our people, imposing upon the government the utmost responsibility to address it with proportional urgency. The numbers speak for themselves,” he said.
Opposition instilling fear
Panelo lamented that while many are already expressing intent to get inoculated against COVID-19, members of the opposition and progressive groups are sowing fear.
“It is not the government which instills fear among our citizens. It is the political opposition and some progressive groups that have caused agitation and doubt in the minds of our people as to the benefits of being inoculated against the fatal pathogen,” he said.
He said the public need not worry since the government is basing its COVID-19 protocols and policies on science.
“The government response to the pandemic is in fact, science-based, and we are backed by an array of health experts in our campaign to reach herd immunity through mass vaccination,” Panelo said. Philippine News Agency