The arrest of unvaccinated individuals going outdoors for non-essential purposes due to the current coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) upswing will only be enforced as a last resort by barangay officials, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said.

He explained that the arrest will only be made in the event the target persons remain uncooperative despite being told courteously of the President’s order.

Año issued the clarification after critics claimed that the Presidential directive borders on the violation of the person’s Bill of Rights.

“The President is merely exercising his authority as chief executive under the public health emergency. He was very clear in his directive that an arrest will only be a last resort. Pakiusapan muna na pumirmi sa bahay (Initially the concerned individual will be requested to remain home). Barangay officials may only arrest the unvaccinated individual who refuse to cooperate and who are leaving the homes for non-essential purposes),” Año explained.

To avoid any untoward incidents, Año told the public to always bring their vaccination cards “and show it to barangay officials and police officers as proof of vaccination against COVID-19 upon request.’’

Año reminded the public that barangay officials are persons in authority and are duty bound to implement the President’s directive as well as the ordinances passed by their respective local government units (LGUs).

In his Talk to the People briefing on Jan 6, President Duterte invoked his authority as chief executive amid a national emergency to order the mobility restriction on the unvaccinated individuals.

“I am now giving orders to the barangay captains to look for those persons who are not vaccinated and just request them or order them if you may to stay put,’’ Duterte said in the briefing.

DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya stressed that the barangay officials shall also be guided by the ordinances passed by their respective LGUs in enforcing the President’s directive.

So far, Malaya noted that seven Metro Manila LGUs have approved ordinances restricting the mobility of the unvaccinated persons in their respective jurisdictions as a precautionary measure against the virus.

These are Caloocan City Ordinance No. 0959, Quezon City Ordinance No. 3076, San Juan City Ordinance No. 2022-1, Valenzuela City Ordinance No. 976, Pateros City Ordinance No. 2022-01, Las Pinas City 02-2022, and Taguig City No. 62.

The other LGUs in Metro Manila are currently in the process of deliberating their respective ordinances which should pass next week after all Metro Manila mayors earlier approved a resolution that unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals must remain in their homes except for essential trips under alert level 3 or higher.

The DILG spokesperson stated that they will also be banned from indoor and al fresco dining, hotels, country clubs, leisure trips and similar establishments and public transportation.

Malaya added that the unvaccinated individuals going to work must present negative RT-PCR test results every two weeks “otherwise they will not be allowed to leave their homes to go to work.’’

“We are doing this to protect the unvaccinated themselves because they are prone to critical illness and hospitalization and we need to protect our health care system from being overwhelmed with the exponential rise of coronavirus cases because of the omicron variant,” Malaya said.

Malaya noted that the ordinances provide for administrative penalties ranging from P500 to P5,000 with imprisonment of seven days to 30 days while business establishments that violate the ordinances will also be penalized with a fine of P3,000 to P5,000 and suspension or cancellation of business permit at the discretion of the court.

He clarified that the unvaccinated persons need to stay at home except to procure essential goods and services such as food, water, medicine or medical devices, public utilities, work and medical and dental visits.

The ordinances authorized barangays officials, the police, the City Health Office, and the Business Permits and Licensing Office (BPLO) to implement the law.

Many business leaders, medical groups, and organizations have been pushing for the restrictions to be implemented nationwide amid the spike in infections and the threat of the omicron COVID-19 variant. (Chito A. Chavez)

Source: Manila Bulletin (