Escudero wants DOTr to recall ‘no vax, no ride’

By Mar S. Arguelles


Sorsogon Gov. Chiz Escudero is urging the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to recall its policy banning unvaccinated individuals from riding public transport, calling the “no vax, no ride” directive discriminatory and without legal basis.


Starting Jan. 17, commuters who are not inoculated with Covid-19 vaccines are prohibited from taking the public buses, taxis, jeepneys, boats, and commercial planes to, from, and within Metro Manila-based on the DOTr directive, in a new attempt by the government to curb the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

“This is simply wrong and discriminatory,” Escudero said. “Public transport is a necessity and the vaccination status of any individual cannot and should not be used to deprive him or her of access to public transportation.”


“The equal protection and due process clause of our Constitution dictates nothing less,” according to Escudero.


In a press statement, Escudero said, public transportation, just like other public utilities such as water, telecoms, or power, “must offer its services to the public without any discrimination or classification because it goes against the very nature of what it is—a public transportation.”


“Walang matibay na basehan ng polisiyang ito ng DOTr. Mas magandang pagtibayin ay kung paano pa natin kukumbinsihin at hihikatayin ang mga mamamayang ayaw o takot magpabakuna at kung paano aabutin ang mahigit 30 porsyento pa ng target population na mabakunan pa,” Escudero said.


The National Task Force against Covid-19 said that as Jan. 13, over 54 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated so far, representing 70 percent of the country’s target population. It is eyeing to inoculate 77 million by the end of the first quarter and 90 million by the end of the second quarter. Individuals who have received their booster shots are still below the 5 million mark.


“Wala namang batas na tinatayuan ang ‘no vax, no ride’ policy ng DOTr. Dapat agad na ito ay bawiin dahil hadlang ito sa malayang paggalaw ng publiko, bakunado man o hindi. Ang pampublikong sasakyan ay para sa lahat, para sa mga papasok sa trabaho, para sa mga may kailangang pumunta sa hospital, para sa mga may bibilhin sa botika o grocery,” the Sorsogon governor pointed out.


He said “Hindi ako magtataka kung minsan ay may maghain ng petisyon sa Korte Suprema upang pigilan ang polisiya ng DOTr. Ang Pilipinas lang ata ang nag-iisa at bukod tangi sa buong mundo na nagbabawal ng mga hindi bakunado sa mga pampublikong sasakyan.”


“Sana ay pag-aralang muli ng DOTr ang polisiyang ito. Dapat ibalanse ang karapatan ng mga mamamayan ng makabiyahe at pagbibigay importansiya sa kalusugan ng bawat isa. Ang mahalaga ay walang karapatan at pangangilangang natatapakan,” Escudero,who once chaired the Senate Committee on Human Rights, said.


On the first day of its implementation, more than 100 unvaccinated commuters have been barred from taking public transportation, according to news reports.


In a related move, the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Bicol has joined critics of the administration’s “no vaccine, no ride policy,” tagging it as a repressive policy that tramples on people’s rights amidst the pandemic.


Ma. Roja Banua, NDF Bicol spokesperson on Monday, Jan. 17, called on the public to denounce and reject the policy saying that instead of finding ways to stop the spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, the Duterte administration instead issued the “No Vaccine No Work; No Ride and No Labas” rule and other wretched policies pitting people’s right against the medical solution.


Banua in a statement said the oppressive restrictions are being implemented in Bicol by dispatching hundreds of checkpoints in major highways to monitor and prevent entries at provincial boundaries of individuals without vaccination cards.


She also assailed the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) directive to local government units (LGU) to collect the names of unvaccinated individuals in their barangays, and those individuals caught violating the policies would face arrest, and made to pay fines.


“Whatever way Duterte attempts to justify this latest directive, these suppressive policies do not answer the lack of free mass testing, the insufficient number of contact tracers, medicine and vaccine shots that should be enough to cover 110 million Filipinos and lack of comprehensive information drives that would have deepened the people’s understanding of vaccines and the Covid-19 situation,” she said.


Banua said these repressive policies can never make up for the inexistence of a stable and adequate healthcare system in the country caused by decades of privatization and commercialization of services. These are the true reasons behind the ineptitude in combatting Covid-19.


NDF-Bikol said that the people must not be cowed by the administration policies and urged the public to be united and step up its stand against oppressive measures carried out by the administration, saying “we will always defend and fight for the people’s rights.”