MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Public Attorney's Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta has the right to refuse COVID-19 vaccination despite being a public official, but she has to obey government regulations restricting the movement of unvaccinated individuals in the interest of public safety.
Guevarra made this statement after Acosta admitted that she has chosen not to be vaccinated due to her age and health considerations.
"At present there is no law making anti-COVID vaccination mandatory. To that extent, PAO Chief Acosta has the legal right to refuse vaccination," Guevarra said on Tuesday.
"But the state has the power to regulate the movement of unvaccinated persons if it deems that such regulation is in the interest of public health or public safety," he added.
"In short, a person may refuse to get vaccinated for her own personal reasons but she is duty-bound to obey reasonable state regulations affecting unvaccinated persons for the benefit of society at large," Guevarra said.
The justice secretary also said that unvaccinated individuals were "not absolutely prohibited" from using public transportation in Metro Manila, as ordered by the Department of Transportation.
"The unvaccinated are not absolutely prohibited from availing themselves of public transport, provided that they have passes to show that they are out to obtain essential goods and services or that they have medical certifications showing that they could not be vaccinated for medical or health reasons," he said.
Guevarra said public transport operators were bound to safely carry their passengers to their destinations, "and 'safely' means freedom not only from accidental injury but also from transmissible diseases."
The restriction is not meant to be adopted in areas with very low vaccination rates and should last only while Metro Manila is on alert level 3 or higher, he added.
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