June 21, 2024

There must be a clear definition of the words discrimination and coercion first before the proposed ordinance that intends to bar establishments from not accepting unvaccinated people against the Covid-19 gets the approval of the city council.
A proposed ordinance without an exact description of what discrimination or coercion could result in the measure being challenged in court or other venues, warned Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda, chair of the city council committee on laws.
“Categorically, we cannot coerce anyone to get vaccinated but the definition of what constitutes discrimination should be specific,” Tabanda said.
“If an establishment chooses to accept only those who are vaccinated, is it discrimination? Is it not the right of the businessman? When do we say there is discrimination?” Tabanda said, as she pointed out the proposal of Councilor Mylen Yaranon might also be infringing on the discretion of managements of establishments.
City Legal Officer Richard Dayag added while the city council is not barred from passing ordinances that intend to give equal access to the unvaccinated, the Department of the Interior and Local Government memorandum circular containing the guidelines limiting the movement of the unvaccinated states that though restricted, the unvaccinated may still be allowed to access essential goods and services.
The circular also recognizes there are people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.
Like the suggestion of Tabanda, he said the proposed ordinance should be definite on what coercion and discrimination are.
Citing the doctrine of indubio pro reo, Dayag said in cases where there is doubt, the court would usually side with the accused.
He said this could be the case if the definition of terms in the proposed ordinance is ambiguous.
Dayag also cited the principle of valid classification where in the government’s effort to slow down the spread of the SARS-CoV2, it recognizes the right of an individual to not get vaccinated, but at the same time recognizes the measures employed to protect other citizens, hence the classification between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated and the restrictions in movement imposed on the latter.
The proposed ordinance is also unclear on who should be held liable in the event an unvaccinated is not accommodated in a certain establishment.
“Will it be the staff who is merely following orders or the management, which is also following the mandate of DILG?” Councilor Joel Alangsab, chair of the committee on health said.
The proposed ordinance, which has been originally referred to the committee on health, has been referred to the City Legal Office for review. – Rimaliza A. Opiña