Twelve days after President Rodrigo Duterte announced that he wants barangay captains to restrain the movement of people unvaccinated against Covid-19, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) issued on Jan. 18, Memorandum Circular No. 2022-002 to enforce the Chief Executive’s order.

The President’s pronouncement was criticized by many quarters, including the Commission on Human Rights, as it reeks of violating a person’s constitutional right to unhindered travel.

Signed by DILG Secretary Eduardo Año and posted on the Department’s website, the memo is addressed to provincial governors, city and municipal mayors, barangay captains, Sanggunian, police, DILG field offices, among others.

The DILG tells them that it wants an “inventory of vaccinated population in the barangay in line with the pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte to restrain movement of unvaccinated individuals.”

Key provisions in the Memorandum Circular No. 2022-022 include the instruction to municipal and city mayors to coordinate with the Sanggunian and enact “an ordinance providing reasonable restrictions on the movement of unvaccinated persons, in line with the Constitution and other laws.” They are also told to seek the police’s assistance in “monitoring and restraining unvaccinated individuals.”

For the barangay captains, the DILG instructed them to “cause the preparation of a monthly inventory of the vaccinated population in the barangay indicating their status, whether with first dose only, fully vaccinated (with two doses), or with booster dose already.”

The list must be submitted to the DILG field officer for consolidation not later than the 10th day of the following month.

Barangay captains must “closely monitor the mobility of persons yet to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and to advise them to stay at home to minimize the risk of Covid-19 transmission.” But they must do it with “utmost respect for human rights.”

The memo quoted Section 15, Article 2 (Declaration of Principles and State Policies) of the 1987 Constitution, which states that “the State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.”

However, the DILG forgot that the same Constitution, specifically Section 6 of the Article 3 (Bill of Rights), mentions that the State shall not hinder a person’s right to travel. Malacañang has an escape though as the right to travel has exemptions. It could be impaired in the “interest of national security, public safety or public health, as may be provided by law.” But there is no law yet that either mandates vaccination or arrest of unvaccinated people amid the pandemic.

This is why the DILG memo wants local legislation to restrict mobility of unvaxxed people. But this raises a question on ordinances’ constitutionality if ever they are passed by municipal and city councils.

The issuance of the DILG memo could be part of the national government’s hardball move to force vaccine-hesitant or anti-vax people to get their jabs against Covid-19.

Also, not explicitly stated in the memo is if the list of vaccinated people must also include the names of vaccinated elected public servants.

Will the movement of unvaxxed officials like councilors, mayors and governors be closely monitored by the barangay officials?