Press Release
July 30, 2021

Drilon: State may impose movement restrictions on unvaccinated individuals

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon said that the government may impose restrictions for unvaccinated Filipinos to contain the further spread of the COVID-19 virus and promote the general welfare and public health.

President Duterte recently said that he cannot wait for a law to punish unvaccinated Filipinos and he wants police and barangay captains to restrict the movement of people who do not want to get vaccinated against COVID-19 virus. It is well within the power of the State to restrict the movement of unvaccinated individuals. However, a law must be passed if the government wants to punish, arrest or jail those unvaccinated from going out," Drilon said on Friday.

"It is a valid and reasonable exercise of police power to promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the people. The general welfare clause also provides sufficient authority to the State to implement measures for the 'maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and promotion of the general welfare,'" Drilon said.

"The State may also interfere with personal liberty to promote the general welfare as long as the interference is reasonable and not arbitrary," the former justice secretary stressed.

"It is correct that those unvaccinated should stay home. If they go out, the process of escorting them back to their homes is a reasonable exercise of state power to protect public health. Kailangan ito gawin para masugpo ang pagkalat ng delta variant ng -COVID-19," Drilon said.

In the United States, Drilon said the exercise of police power in promoting public health and safety has long been upheld. In 1905, the US Supreme Court in Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts [197 U.S. 11 (1905)] upheld the compulsory vaccination of persons over the age of 21 against smallpox. It ruled that the vaccination program had a "real and substantial relation to the protection of the public health and safety."

Drilon also cited Zucht v. King [260 U.S. 174 (1922)] wherein the parents of an unvaccinated child excluded from school challenged the ordinance requiring vaccinations for schoolchildren as violative of the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses. The Court held that "it is within the police power of a State to provide for compulsory vaccination" and that the ordinance did not bestow "arbitrary power, but only that broad discretion required for the protection of the public health."

However, Drilon emphasized that such must be weighed carefully because many Filipinos remain unvaccinated not out of their own choice but because of the lack of supply of vaccines.

"It's a policy call of the President but the government must look into factors why many Filipinos remain vaccinated. Some areas have limited access to vaccines, slow roll or the vaccines available are not what the people prefer," Drilon reminded the government.

"Such measure must have the concomitant responsibility of the state to provide and make the vaccines available to the public," he added.

Drilon also stressed that there must be a uniform vaccine card with basic security features to prevent forgeries.

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