MANILA -- Gabriela party-list has called for an investigation into the government’s 'no vaccine, no ride' policy in public transportation.
The group pointed out that according to Republic Act 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccination Act of 2021, vaccine cards "shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment, and other similar government transaction purposes.”
Gabriela said the Department of Transportation's (DOTr) order is devoid of any basis or explanation “for the blatant discrimination of commuters which have negatively affected their job and livelihood.”
The progressive party-list called the DOTr's deployment of "mystery riders" to supposedly check the implementation of the policy a “waste of resources amid the public clamor for cash aid and access to social services.”
Citing data from the World Bank, Gabriela said that while 51 percent of the Philippine population had already received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, only 34 percent had been fully vaccinated.
They said this is "proof that the Filipino people should not bear the brunt of the government's slow vaccination program.”
“The government must steer away from its anti-poor and anti-people policy-making schemes and adopt a rights-based approach in handling the COVID-19 surge through efficient surveillance system, free mass testing, contact tracing, isolation, and treatment,” Gabriela said.
In a separate statement, Gabriela Partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas said the 'no vax, no ride' policy must be scrapped.
"Pagod at hirap na ang mamamayan sa bulok na pampublikong transportasyon tapos lalong aabalahin pa ng gobyerno gamit itong No Vax, No Ride policy. Sobra-sobrang pahirap na ito. Dapat na ibasura ang patakaran na iyan ng DOTr,” she said.
On Tuesday, House Committee on Health chairperson Angelina Helen Tan also asked the DOTr to review the "no vaccination, no ride" policy that is currently being implemented in Metro Manila.
House Committee on Transportation Chair Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento expressed his misgivings about the policy, which he partly supports, during the weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay online forum.
Sarmiento said he would have wanted government agencies to study the policy better before issuing it so it can mitigate the impact on affected sectors.
"Kung meron man guildeine ipapalabas po ang transportation sector, sana naman sinang-ayunan po ito ng lahat, kasama na po ang labor, kasama na po ang lahat na ng sektor na maapektuhan, kasi pag 'di po tama ang bibitawan na salita ay magulo po.”
Sarmiento hopes the policy can be rescinded as soon as the number of COVID-19 cases declines.
"Ako po’y sumang-ayon sa unang statement po ng Secretary ng Transportation na sinasabing 'no vax, no ride' but not totally. I was looking at the reason why I had to side with the transportation sector, public transportatin lang po, specific lang tayo."
He said, "Sinasabi sa guideline niya po, limiting transportation access to vaccinated population in the National Capital Region under level 3--ibig sabihin, since mataas po si Omicron… napataas ng numero."
"Sinasabi ko rin, sana, kung bumaba numero, open agad natin, balik yung transportation, publikong sasakyan sa mamamayan po, kasi mahirap wala sila sasakyan."
Transport rights groups and human rights advocates have previously expressed their position to the "no vax, no ride" policy, saying that a more organized and more systemic approach is needed to stop the spread of the virus.
The DOTr has said its policy is meant to protect the unvaccinated from contracting the respiratory disease, and prevent the economy from shutting down.
"If we do not act now, all industries and business sectors will be severely affected," it said.