MANILA - The recent statement of chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo only adds to the confusion surrounding the issue on arresting people who refuse to get COVID-19 vaccination, a lawyers' group said Thursday.
"That position adds to the confusion of our countrymen," Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Domingo Egon Cayosa told ANC's "Rundown".
"But for lawyers like us, including the justice secretary, and the spokesperson of the President... they've already clarified that without a law punishing the refusal to be vaccinated, there's no way anybody can order the arrest to these persons."
Panelo said Wednesday there was no need for a new law to punish those who don't want to get the jabs.
"We are in a state of national emergency due to the (deadly) pandemic. Drastic times demand for drastic measures," he said in a statement.
Panelo also cited the high tribunal's past ruling that the provisions of the 1987 Constitution relating to the promotion of health were “self-executory and do not require any enabling law.”
“Constitutional provisions on public health, by themselves, are operative and need no subsequent legislation for their enforcement,” he said.
This is in contrast to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra's position that no arrest can be made as there is no law yet mandating inoculation against coronavirus.
In the interview, Cayosa called on the government "to get their acts together."
"The confusion, contradictions, the urong-sulong (back and forth) makes it more difficult to compel obedience and that's why it's very important for anyone in leadership to get their acts together," he said.
The IBP chief said the government's top lawyers should have clear delineation of duties.
"If it's statement to the public, I would venture to say that it should be the spokesperson of the President," he said.
"If it pertains to official matters not necessarily for public consumption, it is the Department of Justice Secretary."
"The presidential legal counsel's job is to advise the President in private," he added.
In a televised address Monday, Duterte threatened to jail people who decline to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
"Mamili kayo, magpabakuna kayo o ipakulong ko kayo sa selda," he said.
(You choose— get vaccinated or I'll send you to jail.)
Under Philippine law, an act is not considered a crime and no one is criminally responsible unless a law says so at the time it was committed.