Press Release
January 14, 2022

A Commentary on the policy to restrict the movements of the unvaccinated
By: Sen. Leila M. de Lima

Duterte's threat of "arrest" of unvaccinated only serves to divide us, the faster for the virus to kill us

Most people would say that, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. But here, in the Philippines, it is more apt to say that whenever hard times strike, we, Pinoys, stick together.

Kaya nga may kasabihan tayo, Anuman ang tibay ng piling abaka, ay wala ring lakas kapag nag-iisa. Kaya matibay ang walis, palibhasa'y nabibigkis.

I am reminded of this, as I read the news that Octa Research has projected that the positivity rate in Metro Manila, may surpass 50% these coming days. This means that five out of every ten who get tested, will come out positive. For context, the highest recorded positivity rate before the current surge had been in April 2021, at "just" 21%. As it is, the DOH's Saturday bulletin already recorded a 43.7% positivity rate out of 77,004 cases, kung saan ang pinakamataas ay sa NCR na may 16,233 daily cases reported.

The key point here being "a person tested." Ano pa kaya ang mga taong hindi nagpapa-test, o asymptomatic pero nakapanghahawa? Kung maaalala natin, ang benchmark para sa mga ekonomiyang nagbubukas ay 5% dapat ayon sa WHO.

In short, malayo pa ang ating lalakbayin bilang isang bansa.

Ang nakalulungkot, kung kailan kailangan nating magkaisa ay saka pa magsasalita ang Pangulo nang padalos-dalos, by recklessly ordering the arrest of the unvaccinated who leave their houses.

Sige nga? Saan mo dadalhin ang mga aarestuhin mo? Sa siksik na mga kulungan na hindi mo inintindi nitong huling anim na taon, tulad ng pagpapabaya mo sa ating public healthcare system?

This is the same President who thought Filipinos could be responsible enough to handle the rapid rollback of safety measures and restrictions over the Christmas and New Year holidays. Pero ngayon, he resorts to threatening people with arrest as if they are incapable of understanding social responsibility and could only respond to threats of harm and violence.

This is not the time to pit the vaccinated against the unvaccinated. This is not the time for the President to resort to threats or violence to hide his failures in mass testing, contact tracing, and convincing the people to get vaccinated.

Mabuti na lang, this is not Duterte's call to make. Even barangay officials are smart enough to ask "what is the legal basis for us to make these arrests?" Even a DILG Usec. had to go on record to clarify that there can be no arrests or penalties unless there is a valid law criminalizing the movement of the unvaccinated.

I note that Metro Manila officials - those who are dealing with the bulk of the surge we are experiencing - have unanimously agreed that limitations to the movement of the unvaccinated are necessary. While I am not privy to their internal discussions, I would assume that it is because they are more likely to: (a) get infected by all variants of the virus; (b) suffer severe symptoms that require hospitalization once infected; and (c) have more viral load when infected, which means they are more likely to spread the virus. And I would hope that they have agreed on the standards or conditions that would trigger this policy, as what is being done in Germany, where these measures are only resorted to when a certain hospitalization rate is reached.

But, notably, not even all of them agreed to resort to arresting the unvaccinated. If and when they pass ordinances, or local laws, criminalizing the failure to abide by the restrictions, I am confident that legal processes are in place to ensure that the laws are constitutionally valid, and free from abuse as implemented. And I will be in the frontlines of those who would abuse their power, especially those who would use "public safety" as an excuse to, ironically, make the public less safe from official abuse.

But now is not the time to argue and be divided. This is the time to call on people to exercise the utmost care. Sabi ni CHR Commissioner Gwen Pimentel-Gana, rights come with responsibilities, which is the most important truism that should be remembered at this time. Rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same coin of being a human being living in a society.

Kailangan natin magkaisa - kahit gaano pa tayo sinisira, pinahihina at pinag-aaway ng kapalpakan at walang saysay na pananalita ng isang Rodrigo Duterte.

This is not a "war" against an enemy that can be defeated by violence. This is a fight for survival that can only be won by unity.

Let us all do our part. Hindi lang para sa pansarili o indibidwal nating kaligtasan at kabuhayan, pero para sa kapakanan ng kapwa natin, lalong-lalo na ang ating mga healthcare workers na silang papasan ng bigat ng surge sa mga ospital, at para na rin sa pangkalahatang kaligtasan at kaunlaran ng ating bansa. Pare-pareho nating ayaw magkasakit, makahawa, at bumalik na naman sa sitwasyon ng mga malawakang lockdown.

Let us all act responsibly. Be mindful of the symptoms. Isolate. Get a test or not, but isolate whenever there is even the slightest chance that you are carrying the virus. Contact trace on our own volition. Vaccinate if medically possible. Basically, have a care for others.

No one wins when we fail to act as one.

This is but another surge, but the enemy remains the same. And it isn't our fellow Filipino.

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