President Rodrigo Duterte recently ordered barangay officials to prevent unvaccinated individuals from going outside for reasons that they are prone to contracting the virus that causes Covid-19 and they could get seriously ill.

In line with the Chief Executive’s instruction, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has also ordered all local government units to conduct an inventory of residents who are not yet jabbed against Covid-19 in their jurisdictions. DILG Secretary Eduardo Año also said no arrest would be made against unvaccinated individuals stopped at checkpoints in areas under Alert Level 3—they will just be asked to return to their homes.

If the President’s words are the law, barangay officials who do not follow his order could be in trouble; however, there is no existing law that gives teeth to his order, which reeks of unconstitutionality.

Right to travel is guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution. Section 6 of the Bill of Rights states: “The liberty of abode and of changing the same within the limits prescribed by law shall not be impaired except upon lawful order of the court. Neither shall the right to travel be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law.”

Yes, the pandemic is a public health concern, but is there a law that supports the President’s order? Nada. Commission on Human Rights spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said: “Presently, there is no law that makes being unvaccinated a crime, nor is there any law that would satisfy the Constitutional provision on curtailing freedom of movement. Any arrest made on these grounds may be illegal; thus, violative of the Constitution and our guaranteed human rights.”

Granting the barangay officials would follow the President’s order, it would be hard for them to prevent unvaccinated residents from going out of their houses, especially in densely populated barangays. How can village authorities keep an eye on these individuals round-the-clock with their limited manpower? It would be unwise to do so and exhausting for sure.

The best thing barangay officials could do is to convince their residents to get their jabs against Covid-19 and educate them about the benefits of being vaccinated via their social media pages or purok leaders.

President Duterte’s order is a scare tactic, to force these unvaxxed individuals to head to their vaccination sites.