COVID-19 vaccines

Robredo: Convince unvaccinated to get COVID-19 shots through incentives

Mara Cepeda
Robredo: Convince unvaccinated to get COVID-19 shots through incentives

VACCINE EXPRESS. Vice President Leni Robredo visits the Vaccine Express site in Pasay City on December 16, 2021.

Office of the Vice Preisdent

'Sana mas positive reinforcement, hindi ‘yung takot na huhulihin ka kung hindi ka magpabakuna,' says Vice President Leni Robredo

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President and now presidential aspirant Leni Robredo opposed “punitive” measures against Filipinos who remain unvaccinated against the coronavirus, telling the government it should instead be giving incentives to encourage the public to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

In her weekly DZXL radio show on Sunday, January 9, the Philippine opposition leader reacted to President Rodrigo Duterte ordering local government officials to make sure unvaccinated persons don’t leave their homes except for essential activities.

Robredo pointed out that being unvaccinated is technically not a crime in the country. 

Citing the Office of the Vice President’s own experiences in its free drive-through COVID-19 immunization drive Vaccine Express, Robredo said the best way to convince people to get jabbed is to offer them incentives instead. 

“Hindi krimen, hindi krimen ‘yung [hindi] magpabakuna. Pero babalik ako doon sa dati kong paniniwala na kailangan nagbibigay tayo ng incentive para magpabakuna ‘yung mga tao,” Robredo said. 

(It’s not a crime to be unvaccinated. But I keep on going back to my longtime belief that we must give incentives so people would be convinced to get vaccinated.)

Robredo’s office gives incentives like P500 fuel subsidies, grocery items, rice, face masks, and other items to public transportation and delivery drivers, and their relatives to avail of the COVID-19 shots being offered under the Vaccine Express initiative with local government units. 

“Kailangan lang pinag-iisipan… and hindi ‘yung punitive na kaagad ‘yung pinag-iisipan… Sana mas positive reinforcement, hindi ‘yung takot na huhulihin ka kung hindi ka magpabakuna,” the Vice President said. 

(The response should be well-thought-of, and the policy to be proposed shouldn’t always be punitive… I wish the response was more of positive reinforcement, not the threat to jail people if they do not get vaccinated.)

It was way back in July 2021 when Duterte mulled over arresting unvaccinated people who insist on leaving their homes. 

But the National Union of People’s Lawyers said the proposal was another “jab at liberties.” At the time, only 6.2% of the population was fully-vaccinated. Today, that figure has grown to 45%. 

The Philippines, however, is now experiencing a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. On Saturday, January 8, the country recorded 26,458 new COVID-19 infections – the highest-ever number of cases tallied in a single day since the pandemic began in March 2020.

People have been lining up in pharmacies to buy the medicines, but many go home empty-handed. Robredo urged the Duterte government to step up and address the medicine shortage. –

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.