By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — The Hong Kong government’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination plan for Filipinos working there must be based on the “informed choice” of the recipient, and should never be done under state compulsion, Senator Joel Villanueva said.
“Kahit naman dito sa atin, wala pong pilitan pagdating sa bakuna. Pero mariin po nating hinihimok ang lahat na magpabakuna. So, in whatever country, the protocol is to inform before you inject,” he said.
“It should not be made a requisite for work visa renewal more so if other foreigners in that country are exempted from mandatory vaccination. It is patently discriminatory,” the senator noted.
But no matter how the vaccination is carried out, “mass education should precede mass vaccination,” Villanueva said. “Regardless of the country, its government has to explain the benefits.”
Villanueva explained that if certain workers are forced to get a COVID-19 jab, then it must be free of charge and should not be solely based on their immigration status.
“There’s a thin line between vaccine democracy and class discrimination,” he said.
Echoing the government’s stand on the vaccination of OFWs by their host countries, Villanueva said the Philippines is grateful to countries who have given COVID-19 vaccines to Filipino residents for free.
“Mas mabuti pa nga po sa ibang bansa, madaling makakuha ng bakuna ang mga Pilipino. Kahit nga daw po sa Amerika, pwede nang magpaturok ang mga kababayan natin,” he stated.
“Filipinos everywhere are an enlightened lot when it comes to vaccine benefits. You do not have to force them to get jabbed. They will gladly step forward,” he noted.
“If they will build it, they will come. Pero ‘pag sinabi mo na pwersahan ito at mandatory, mayroong aalma sa proseso. Kahit naman anumang nationality, ganyan po ang magiging reaction,” he said. (AI/MTVN)