Uproar over ‘no vax, no ride policy’: Maybe it’s time for gov’t to say sorry—Bello
MANILA, Philippines — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Wednesday he sees a reason for the government to apologize for failing to inform the public about the “no vaccination, no ride” policy that, as it turns out, exempts workers.
“I think there is [a] reason for us to apologize to the public for that kasi as I was telling Secretary Karlo [Nograles] na kailangan pa ng massive information drive about this policy,” Bello said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
(I think there is a reason for us to apologize to the public for that. As I told Secretary Karlo, we still need a massive information drive about this policy.)
“Nakita ko kahapon ‘yung babae, umiiyak, hindi siya pinasakay dahil iisang dosage lang, very clear. ‘Yung mga implementers natin they have enthusiasm siguro to protect the public, eh nakalimutan nila na exempted ang mga workers,” he added.
(I saw the woman yesterday crying because she was not allowed to ride public transport since she only received one vaccine dose. Our implementers must have been so enthusiastic in protecting the public that they forgot that workers are exempted.)
The “no vaccination, no ride” policy in Metro Manila officially kicked off on Monday as part of an effort to restrict the movement of unvaccinated people in the metropolis. The Department of Transportation (DOTr) requires that only fully vaccinated individuals and presenting a valid ID card or government-issued identification card may ride public transportation.
Exemptions apply to passengers with medical conditions that prevent immunizations, travelers delivering essential goods and services, and passengers traveling to inoculation sites to receive a vaccine.
Following public outcry over the new guidelines, Bello clarified on Tuesday that workers with proper identification will also be exempted from the policy. He added that unvaccinated workers would simply need to show their identification cards to take public transportation.
At the House of Representatives, a lawmaker wants to look into the DOTr’s controversial “no vaccination, no ride” policy.
A resolution filed Tuesday by Rep. Arlene Brosas of the Gabriela Women’s Party calls for a joint investigation by the health and transportation committees on an “illegal and discriminatory” policy prohibiting unvaccinated individuals from using Metro Manila public transport.
In the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, Brosas said vaccination cards “shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment, and other similar government transaction purposes.”
“The department order is devoid of any legal basis nor scientific explanation for the blatant discrimination of commuters which have negatively affected their job and livelihood,” Brosas said in the resolution.
Brosas cited the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as evidence that regardless of vaccination status, “the law is the same for everyone and therefore they must be treated equally.”
“There are other preventive strategies that we can adopt in order to mitigate the spread of the Omicron variant and encourage citizens to get vaccinated without having to set aside their basic human rights and this includes aggressive information dissemination that aims to mass educate communities at the barangay level, especially those without access to the internet,” Brosas said.
“The government must steer away from its anti-poor and anti-people policy-making schemes and adopt a rights-based approach in handling the COVID-19 surge through efficient surveillance system, free mass testing, contact tracing, isolation, and treatment,” she added.
Passengers, some of whom are partially vaccinated, have been unable to travel to their workplaces after being prohibited from using public transportation.
The Labor department on Tuesday announced that workers with proper identification are exempted from the “no vaccination, no ride” policy.
Some lawmakers have also suggested revising or scrapping the policy. With a report from Neil Mecardo
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