EDITORIAL: Prison or Vaccination



The latest pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte that he will send people to jail if they refused to get vaccinated is considered by many as another inane statements from the man who joked his way to the presidency.


Two weeks before that, the country’s chief executive, who prefers to be addressed as mayor instead of president, said it is “possible” to file murder charges against individuals who are fully aware that they are Covid-19 positive, yet still wandered around and gravely infected another person. Before that, in April last year, he ordered the police and military to shoot to kill quarantine violators. Shoot them dead, he said.


As usual, his subalterns, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that there’s no law compelling citizens to get inoculated, while Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, said that vaccination remains voluntary, adding that the president’s remarks were meant to “emphasize what the state can do”.


Instead of threatening people who are already scared to death of getting infected by Covid-19, President Duterte would be better off scaring government officials he appointed to deal with the pandemic to fast track the delivery of the much needed vaccines so that a bigger percentage of Filipinos could be inoculated against the Covid-19 virus.


Based from Fact Check Philippines, as of June 21, 2021, the Philippines is No. 9 among 11 countries in Southeast Asia in terms of percentage of population vaccinated, contrary to the claim of Duterte apologists that our country is No. 2 in terms of vaccine rollout.


The top three ASEAN countries with high vaccination rate are Singapore (46.16%), Cambodia (18.77%) and Brunei (12.38%), while the last three countries with low vaccination rate are Vietnam (2.31%), Myanmar (3.26%) and Philippines (5.43%).


Aside from holding his officials liable for the slow arrival of the vaccines in the country, President Duterte should also ensure that whatever available vaccines that are already delivered must be equitably and immediately distributed to the different cities and municipalities regardless of geographical and political considerations.


Bicol with a population of 5.8 million (2015 census) received some 258,380 doses of Covid-19 vaccines as of June 16, 2021 or a meager 0.045%. These doses were distributed as follow: Albay – 60,932; Camarines Norte – 20,960; Camarines Sur – 77,544; Catanduanes – 18,810; Masbate – 42,078; and Sorsogon – 38,056. Naga City with a 2021 estimated population of 231,000 got 6,670 doses only or 1.4%.


So instead of threatening to imprison those who do not want to be vaccinated, President Duterte should first make sure that there is sufficient supply of Covid vaccines, otherwise, his pronouncement to that effect will just be considered as an addition to the now popular “DU30 Joke Only Compilation”.