Statement of CHR spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, on the order to arrest unvaccinated individuals

Statement of CHR spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, on the order to arrest unvaccinated individuals

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) cautions against the directive to arrest individuals who either refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19 or those unvaccinated who violate the stay-at-home restrictions of the government.

While the 1987 Constitution provides that liberty of movement can be restricted in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, it still requires a law to make the said restriction legal. Presently, there is no law that makes being unvaccinated a crime, nor is there any law that would satisfy the Constitutional provision on curtailing freedom of movement. Any arrest made on these grounds may be illegal; thus, violative of the Constitution and our guaranteed human rights.

At the same time, any arrest without warrant goes against the guarantees of due process in the Constitution. Warrantless arrests can only be made under certain exemptions, including in flagrante delicto (in the act of committing/attempting to commit/has committed a crime) arrests; ‘hot pursuit’ arrests; and re-arrest of escaped prisoners. The present directive to arrest unvaccinated individuals on-the-spot does not satisfy the said exemptions, aside from the fact that, as mentioned, no crime is being committed.

We continue to stress the parameters of acceptable justifications detailed under the Siracusa Principles for the restriction of rights as a response to the present pandemic—that, among others, it must be legal, necessary, proportional, non-discriminatory, and should not be abused. Government should also contemplate the repercussions of such a directive considering that our jails and other detention facilities are already congested, which may further worsen transmission of Covid-19.

CHR urges the government to employ a human rights-based approach on the matter, wherein education on the importance of vaccinations will continue to be pursued; vaccine hesitancy, access, and supply will be addressed; and alternatives to arrests will be explored, including understanding why others insist on going out despite being unvaccinated and providing a win-win solution.

Ending the pandemic is a human rights concern. We stress that an effective pandemic response can and should maintain respect for human rights. ###