Preventing unvaccinated individuals from going outside may result to “unjustified discrimination” since they may have valid reasons for not being vaccinated.
Such restriction will affect the unvaccinated individuals’ “abilities to cope with the effects of the pandemic, including effects to livelihoods and ability to fend for themselves in the absence of explicit proposals for aid while in isolation,” the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said reacting to the orders of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to the Barangay Chairmen and the Philippine National Police (PNP) during a televised briefing to stop people who refuse to be vaccinated from leaving their homes to prevent them from becoming COVID-19 “walking spreaders”.
They said that policies restricting human rights in times of emergencies must be lawful, based on scientific evidence, neither arbitrary nor discriminatory, and mindful of “possible disproportionate impacts to marginalized populations.”
Impeding human rights in times of an emergency, such as a pandemic, must not only be based on necessity but must also be lawful and proportionate to its goal, she said, citing the Siracusa Principles, guidelines adopted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 1984. The Siracusa Principles are a foundation on which to build—in emergencies—state restrictions on rights. These are only justified when they support a legitimate aim and are: provided for by law, strictly necessary, proportionate, of limited duration, and subject to review against abusive applications.
There might be legal implications if the movement of the unvaccinated individuals will be restricted, therefore, a law must be passed first before enforcing the ban.
Senator Franklin Drilon was right that it is within the power of the state to restrict the movement of unvaccinated individuals, however, a law must be passed if the government want to punish, arrest or jail those unvaccinated.
Although, it is also appropriate to encourage the unvaccinated individuals to stay home to prevent possible spread or transmission of COVID-19, and the process of escorting them back to their homes is a reasonable exercise of police power to protect public health, considering that the government can impose regulations to promote the general welfare and public interest, including public health. That said, the law must be reasonably necessary to accomplish the government’s purpose and it must not be arbitrary or oppressive.
On the other hand, since the supply of COVID-19 vaccines in the country is still not enough, the Department of Health (DOH) assured that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals will be treated similarly.
Vaccine supply remains to be a challenge, as well as vaccine hesitancy since some people are receiving wrong information on vaccines and their effects.
The CHR said that with all these challenges, preventing unvaccinated individuals from leaving their homes may result in unjust discrimination considering that there are reasons for being unvaccinated that are beyond their control.
What the government should focus this time, is to address issues on vaccine supply, reluctance of some individuals to vaccines, and improve the overall health system, especially the response against COVID-19.
The human rights must continue to be at the center of all the government’s efforts against COVID-19. Ending the pandemic is, after all, in pursuit of the satisfaction of the highest attainable standard of health—a fundamental human right.