ILOILO CITY, Philippines – Activist groups opposed on Thursday, January 13, the Iloilo City government’s proposed ordinance restricting the movement of unvaccinated persons in the city.
BAYAN Panay and Panay Alliance Karapatan released a joint position paper denouncing the measure, saying it would adversely affect unvaccinated persons.
They warned that restrictions could deprive the unvaccinated of sources of income and access to basic necessities, and result to “hunger, loneliness and, ultimately, sickness.”
“Subject to punishment, they can be prohibited from entering government and private offices, prevented from going to markets, malls, stores, restaurants, resorts, schools and churches and denied access to public transportation. It will be tantamount to a deprivation of their livelihoods, the inaccessibility of basic social services, and forced isolation in their homes,” the statement said.
The groups said the proposed ordinance would violate the right to equal protection under the law and the right to make informed choices in matters of personal health, which are guaranteed by international human rights conventions and the 1987 Constitution.
The vax mandate violates Republic Act No. 11525 (COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021), which prohibits requiring vaccine cards for educational, employment and other similar government transaction purposes, they pointed out.
“Data, both domestically and abroad, have shown that vaccinated individuals may still be infected and spread COVID-19. This has likewise been acknowledged by the Department of Health and by vaccine-makers. There is, therefore, no basis to discriminate against or deprive unvaccinated persons of their basic civil rights. The fact that the vast majority of new COVID-19 cases in Iloilo City, as well as in other major cities, were vaccinated persons, only shows that you cannot and should not discriminate against unvaccinated individuals,” the groups added.
January 1 to 13, 2022 data collated by Rappler from figures of the Iloilo City COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center showed that there were 524 fully-vaccinated (84 with booster shots), 37 partially vaccinated, and 133 unvaccinated COVID cases.
However, the alliance failed to mention the Iloilo City Epidemiological Surveillance Unit’s (ICESU) year-end report for 2021, which showed that the unvaccinated accounted for 386 of total 444 COVID-19 deaths that year.
Medical experts have said the Omicron variant can infect even fully-vaccinated persons but with less symptoms that in unvaccinated patients.
Iloilo City’s vaccine coverage was at 133.65% of its 335,172 target population, according to the January 10 report by the Department of Health in Western Visayas.
The target population is 70% of the city’s 478,817 total population. Iloilo City has for months allowed non-residents to avail of jabs. More than half of the city’s local workforce reside in other towns and cities of Iloilo province.
The protesters made the following suggestions:
- Provide sufficient information on vaccines to ensure an informed consent and make use of persuasion to convince people to be vaccinated
- Ensure the availability of vaccines and other alternative remedies to COVID-19, preferably early treatment with either free or inexpensive, safe and effective medicines
- Fine-tune existing health protocols, such as the wearing of face mask, so as not to deprive the people of elements needed for healthy functioning, such as oxygen
- Implement a practicable and people-oriented health program that will enhance the natural immunity of the citizens, including easy practices such as regular exercise and exposure to sunlight, a costless source of vitamin D much needed by the body’s immune system in fighting diseases
BAYAN Panay and Panay Alliance Karapatan are both members of the Alliance Against Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination. – Rappler.com
Joseph B.A. Marzan is a Visayas-based journalist from Iloilo City and is a recipient of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.