Press Release
November 7, 2021

Drilon nixes 'no vax, no subsidy' for 4Ps members, hits DILG's callousness
Drilon agrees with Vice President Robredo that the government should offer incentives to get people vaccinated rather than punish them

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon strongly opposed the "no vax, no subsidy" for 4.4 million beneficiaries of 4Ps or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, calling the proposal of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) "absolutely unacceptable, inhuman and callous".

"It pains me to see a government that has shown nothing but a total callous disregard for the vulnerable sector of our society. It is yet another display of the government's callousness," Drilon said in a statement on Sunday.

"It only shows that the DILG is detached from reality and unaware of the real plight of the poor," he added.

Drilon said the DILG should recall its proposal and called on the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the lead agency for the program, to protect the welfare of 4Ps beneficiaries.

"Let DSWD handle 4Ps. I call on the DSWD to defend the 4Ps beneficiaries against the 'iron fist' of DILG," Drilon said.

Drilon, who is among the authors of Republic Act No. 11310 that institutionalized 4Ps, said that vaccination is not part of the conditions that beneficiaries must fulfill before receiving assistance.

The government's flagship anti-poverty alleviation program has about 4.4 million Filipino families as beneficiaries since the time of the late President Benigno Aquino, who prioritized the program and increased its beneficiaries from about 700,000 in 210 to 4.4. million towards the end of his term, Drilon noted.

"It is contrary to the 4Ps law to withhold benefits or expel members who are not vaccinated. The DILG cannot just do that. That will be inhuman and totally insensitive," Drilon said.

"We cannot assume that they are not vaccinated because they refused vaccines. They are not vaccinated because they have limited access to vaccines especially in the countryside or the roll out remains slow or the vaccines available are not what the people prefer," Drilon said.

Drilon said that he agrees with Vice President Leni Robredo that the government should offer incentives to get people vaccinated rather than punish them.

The DSWD had also earlier maintained that COVID-19 vaccination is not among the conditions of 4Ps and vowed to oppose the proposal all out.

Citing Section 11 of RA 11310, Drilon said the conditions for entitlement are clearly indicated in the law: these are (a) Pregnant women must avail of pre-natal services, give birth in a health facility attended by a skilled health professional, and receive post-partum care and post-natal care for her newborn; (b) Children zero (0) to five (5) years old must receive regular preventive health and nutrition services including check-ups and vaccinations; (c) Children one (1) to fourteen (14) years old must avail of deworming pills at least twice a year; (d) Children three (3) to four (4) years old must attend daycare or pre-school classes at least eighty-five percent (85%) of them time; (e) Children five (5) to eighteen (18) years old must attend elementary or secondary classes at least eighty-five percent (85%) of their time; and (f) At least one (1) responsible person must attend family development sessions conducted by the DSWD, at least once a month.

"The poverty incidence is continuously rising. There are 4.25 million Filipinos unemployed and 4.8 million families are hungry," he cited. The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) had earlier said that about 17 million Filipinos are expected to remain poor next year and the government may fail to reach its 14-percent poverty rate target set by the Duterte administration due to the pandemic.

"DILG's callous policy will make things even worse for 4Ps beneficiaries and for the economy," Drilon said. The former justice secretary also said that while the exercise of police power in promoting public health and safety has long been upheld in other countries such as in the United States, Drilon reiterated 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.

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."

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