By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon strongly opposed
the “no vax, no subsidy” for 4.4 million beneficiaries of 4Ps or
Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, calling the proposal of the
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) “absolutely
unacceptable, inhuman, and callous.”
In a statement on Sunday, Drilon said that he agrees with Vice
President Robredo that the government should offer incentives to get
people vaccinated rather than punish them
“It pains me to see a government that has shown nothing but a total
callous disregard for the vulnerable sector of our society. It is yet
another display of the government’s callousness,” Drilon said.
“It only shows that the DILG is detached from reality and unaware of
the real plight of the poor,” he added.
Drilon said the DILG should recall its proposal and called on the
Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the lead agency
for the program, to protect the welfare of 4Ps beneficiaries.
“Let DSWD handle 4Ps. I call on the DSWD to defend the 4Ps
beneficiaries against the ‘iron fist’ of DILG,” Drilon said.
Drilon, who is among the authors of Republic Act No. 11310 that
institutionalized 4Ps, said that vaccination is not part of the
conditions that beneficiaries must fulfill before receiving
The government’s flagship anti-poverty alleviation program has about
4.4 million Filipino families as beneficiaries since the time of the
late President Benigno Aquino, who prioritized the program and
increased its beneficiaries from about 700,000 in 210 to 4.4. million
towards the end of his term, Drilon noted.
“It is contrary to the 4Ps law to withhold benefits or expel members
who are not vaccinated. The DILG cannot just do that. That will be
inhuman and totally insensitive,” Drilon said.
“We cannot assume that they are not vaccinated because they refused
vaccines. They are not vaccinated because they have limited access to
vaccines especially in the countryside or the rollout remains slow or
the vaccines available are not what the people prefer,” Drilon said.
Drilon said that he agrees with Vice President Leni Robredo that the
government should offer incentives to get people vaccinated rather
than punish them.
The DSWD had also earlier maintained that COVID-19 vaccination is not
among the conditions of 4Ps and vowed to oppose the proposal all out.
Citing Section 11 of RA 11310, Drilon said the conditions for
entitlement is clearly indicated in the law: these are (a) Pregnant
women must avail of prenatal services, give birth in a health
facility attended by a skilled health professional, and receive
post-partum care and post-natal care for her newborn; (b) Children
zero (0) to five (5) years old must receive regular preventive health
and nutrition services including check-ups and vaccinations; (c)
Children one (1) to fourteen (14) years old must avail of deworming
pills at least twice a year; (d) Children three (3) to four (4) years
old must attend daycare or pre-school classes at least eighty-five
percent (85%) of the time; (e) Children five (5) to eighteen (18)
years old must attend elementary or secondary classes at least
eighty-five percent (85%) of their time; and (f) At least one (1)
responsible person must attend family development sessions conducted
by the DSWD, at least once a month.
“The poverty incidence is continuously rising. There are 4.25 million
Filipinos unemployed and 4.8 million families are hungry,” he cited.
The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) had earlier said
that about 17 million Filipinos are expected to remain poor next year
and the government may fail to reach its 14-percent poverty rate
target set by the Duterte administration due to the pandemic.
“DILG’s callous policy will make things even worse for 4Ps
beneficiaries and for the economy,” Drilon said.
The former justice secretary also said that while the exercise of
police power in promoting public health and safety has long been
upheld in other countries such as in the United States, Drilon
reiterated that such must be weighed carefully because many Filipinos
remain unvaccinated not out of their own choice but because of the
lack of supply of vaccines.
In 1905, the US Supreme Court in Jacobson v. Commonwealth of
Massachusetts [197 U.S. 11 (1905)] upheld the compulsory vaccination
of persons over the age of 21 against smallpox. It ruled that the
vaccination program had a “real and substantial relation to the
protection of the public health and safety.”
Drilon also cited Zucht v. King [260 U.S. 174 (1922)] wherein the
parents of an unvaccinated child excluded from school challenged the
ordinance requiring vaccinations for schoolchildren as violative of
the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses.
The Court held that “it is within the police power of a State to
provide for compulsory vaccination” and that the ordinance did not
bestow “arbitrary power, but only that broad discretion required for
the protection of the public health.” (ai/mtvn)