The Philippine National Police on Sunday said it would monitor other protesters who would defy COVID-19 health and safety protocols after a group protested against mandatory COVID-19 vaccination over the weekend.
In video clips reported by dzBB last Saturday, a group called Gising Maharlika held a rally at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila without wearing face masks and shields.
The members mainly called for a stop on “mandatory COVID-19 vaccination” despite the procedure being voluntary in the first place.
“Panawagan namin na itigil ang mandatory vaccine. We want our freedom back,” one of the members said in the video.
Under the public policy, the national government can only encourage Filipinos to receive their COVID-19 shots.
This is stated on the Department of Health’s COVID-19 FAQs page which states:
“No, vaccination is not mandatory. But the government highly encourages the public to get vaccinated and be protected against preventable disease.”
This is also stated under section 12 of the Republic Act 11525, which states:
“Vaccine cards shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment and other similar government transaction purposes.”
Gising Maharlika also blamed the COVID-19 jabs as the causes of deaths of Filipinos instead of complications due to the deadly disease.
DOH and other members of the medical community had since stated that vaccines help prevent, not cure, severe illnesses due to viral infections.
“Bilang isang kabataan, dapat alam natin ang karapatan natin. Huwag ninyong isulong ang vaccine na nakakamatay sa maraming tao,” one Gising Maharlika member said.
“Ang dami ng tao ang namamatay. Zero death pa rin DOH. Gumising ka, DOH, Duterte,” she added.
For them, the virus SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19 does not exist despite being more than a year into the pandemic.
“Walang SARS-COV-2. Walang COVID-19,” the member said.
In line with the group’s view, they also protested against the government’s pandemic response efforts—the face mask and shield policy, and the different lockdown measures.
‘Respect beliefs, frontliners’
In a Facebook video, PNP chief General Guillermo Eleazar advised other groups who will protest against the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program to respect the majority of Filipinos’ beliefs.
“Nirerespeto namin ang paniniwala ng ilan nating kababayan na hindi maniwala na may COVID at hindi maniwala sa bakuna, pero matuto din sana kayong igalang ang paniniwala ng mas maraming bilang ng mga Pilipino, kabilang na ang mga namatayan at nahawa at lalong lalo na ang ating mga healthcare workers na nasa frontline ng laban na ito,” he said.
“Holding protest actions to insist on what you believe in does not make it right. It is but plain and simple acts of defiance and irresponsibility because you are putting our personnel and other civilian population at risk of being infected,” he added.
Eleazar stated that the PNP observed “maximum tolerance.”
However, he ordered the police to strictly monitor other anti-vaccine groups who will violate the minimum health public protocols.
“Ipinakita ng inyong kapulisan ang maximum tolerance at pagrespeto sa inyong paniniwala nang magsagawa kayo ng kilos-protesta na walang suot na proteksyon, binabalaan ko kayo na maaring hindi na kayo pagbigyan kapag inulit pa ninyo ang pambabastos sa paniniwala ng karamihan nating kababayan at pambabastos ninyo sa mga patakaran ng public health,” he said.
Some Filipinos also criticized the group for being insensitive to frontliners, COVID-19 patients and their families.
“A lot of people are dying and frontliners are putting their lives at stake,” one Twitter user said.
“Wow this is just insensitive to those who actually had and have COVID, and who died because of COVID,” another online user wrote.
Others, meanwhile, perceived that the police’ response to this as a double standard. They argued that the authorities won’t be this tolerable if they were demanding government accountability.
“Not that they should be arrested, but there is a double standard for apprehending rights orgs and this chaotic disinformation group who ACTUALLY violate health protocols. Is this chaos staged to invalidate real calls?” one Twitter user said.
“Not saying these people should be arrested. Just saying we can really see how the State unduly tags and discriminates between activists and those threatening public safety,” another user said.