December 8, 2022

The Department of the Interior and Local Government has earlier proposed the withholding of some benefits of unvaccinated Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries, raising the issue of human rights and discrimination.
Usec. Jonathan Malaya recently said unvaccinated 4Ps beneficiaries will not be removed, but a portion of their benefits will be suspended until they are vaccinated.
“The intention behind this proposal is sincere and clear: to boost the inoculation drive in order to rise above the COVID-19 nightmare and reach population protection as soon as possible,” the DILG Sec Eduardo Año stated in a news release.
Several lawmakers, such as Senator Franklin Drilon and Senator Risa Hontiveros, have opposed the DILG’s proposal as they believe it is derogatory for the 4Ps beneficiaries.
Based on the DSWD’s website, the 4Ps is a program that provides cash grants to “eligible poor households subject to their compliance with education and health conditionalities.”
Vaccinated or not, 4Ps beneficiaries are entitled to their benefits if they meet the above conditions. It will take an amendment of RA 11310, which institutionalized the 4Ps, to add vaccination as one of the conditionalities. However, the country does not need an amendment since the DILG’s proposal only undermines the already marginalized sector.
Targeting the vulnerable sector of 4Ps and limiting the benefits for the unvaccinated is like rubbing salt to the wounds of the beneficiaries. These chosen individuals heavily rely on the assistance of the government for their living, and depriving them of their rightfully entitled benefits would only add up to their burden.
Supreme Court justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez said that people could find basis in the right to privacy in opposing mandatory vaccination. In the case of Disini vs. Secretary of DOJ, the Supreme Court cited the U.S. case of Whalen vs. Roe stating that there are two types of privacy: decisional and informational.
The United States Supreme Court said, “Decisional privacy involves the right to independence in making certain important decisions, while informational privacy refers to the interest in avoiding disclosure of personal matters.”
The DILG’s proposal of mandatory vaccination disregards decisional privacy. The agency infringes the right to privacy as they interfere with a person’s right to decide for himself as an autonomous individual.
Furthermore, Section 11, Article II of the 1987 Constitution ensures that the “State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.” With the mandatory vaccination in place, respect for human rights is infringed. It will pressure people to unwillingly conform to a particular action to attain the benefits to which they are eligible in the first place.
Instead of resorting to mandatory vaccination, the government should learn that vaccine hesitancy may stem from society’s perceived image of the government. The Dengvaxia case in 2016 perhaps intensified the doubts of the Filipinos on vaccines.
Lawmakers must ensure that the DILG’s proposal is not passed into law as one cannot simply jeopardize the lives of the 4Ps beneficiaries in the hopes of doing heroic acts in the time of the pandemic. (AYRA MONETTE S. TAMARAY)