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|President Rodrigo Duterte. (Photo: CNN)|
President Rodrigo Duterte, who is known for his public outbursts and brash rhetoric, said in televised remarks Monday night that he has become exasperated with people who refuse to get immunized then help spread the coronavirus. The Philippine president has threatened to order the arrest of Filipinos who refuse Covid-19 vaccination and told them to leave the country if they would not cooperate with the efforts to contain the pandemic.
"You choose, vaccine, or I will have you jailed," Duterte said in a televised address late on Monday, following reports of low turnout at several vaccination sites in the capital of Manila. "But for as long as you are here and you are a human being, and can carry the virus, get vaccinated. Otherwise, I will order all the village captains to have a tally of the people who refuse to be vaccinated. Because if not, I will have Ivermectin meant for pigs injected into you," Reuters quoted the president.
“Don’t get me wrong. There is a crisis being faced in this country. There is a national emergency. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I’ll have you arrested and I’ll inject the vaccine in your butt,” Duterte said. “If you will not agree to be vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India if you want or somewhere, to America.” He added that he would order village leaders to compile a list of defiant residents, according to Wane.
Duterte said he will ask local officials to keep a list of people who refuse to get vaccinated, mirroring a tactic his government has used in its brutal war on drugs that has resulted in several extrajudicial killings of suspected peddlers and users.
|A health worker prepares a vial of the Sinovac coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination center in Taguig City, Manila, on June 14. (Photo: CNN)|
Opposition from human rights groups
If Duterte follows through with his warning, the Philippines will end up having the harshest penalty for people refusing Covid vaccination and raise additional human rights concerns about his government, which is already under the international scanner for its brutal war on drugs, said Forbes.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra acknowledged on Tuesday that there was no Philippine law criminalizing the refusal to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. "I believe that the president merely used strong words to drive home the need for us to get vaccinated and reach herd immunity as soon as possible," Guevarra said.
A human rights lawyer, Edre Olalia, raised concerns over Duterte's threat, saying the president could not order the arrest of anybody who has not clearly committed any crime.
Duterte and his administration have faced criticism over a vaccination campaign that has been saddled with supply problems and public hesitancy. After repeated delays, vaccinations started in March, said NPR.
Duterte blamed the problem on wealthy Western countries cornering vaccines for their own citizens, leaving poorer countries like the Philippines behind. Some officials said the bigger problem was inadequate vaccine supply more than public hesitancy. Duterte also walked back on an earlier remark that required people to wear plastic face shields over face masks only in hospitals as an added safeguard. After experts briefed him on the threat of more contagious coronavirus variants, Duterte declared it mandatory for people to continue wearing face shields indoors and outdoors.
Philippines' Covid-19 situation
The Philippines is a COVID-19 hotspot in Asia, with more than 1.3 million cases and at least 23,749 deaths. As of June 20, Philippine authorities had fully vaccinated 2.1 million people, making slow progress toward the government's target to immunize up to 70 million people in the country of 110 million this year.
1.8% is the total percentage of the Philippines’ population that has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 according to Bloomberg’s tracker. The low uptake of vaccines has allowed the virus to continue to spread in the country which is reporting nearly 6,000 cases and 100 deaths every day.
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