June 22 (UPI) — Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, has threatened to jail people in the country who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
During a televised address, Duterte described the COVID-19 pandemic as a “crisis” and “national emergency,” saying those who refuse inoculation will be jailed or deported.
“You choose, get vaccinated or I will have you jailed,” he said.
“I’m telling you those police jails are filthy and foul-smelling and police are slow to clean them. That is where you’ll be.”
He added that those who do not wish to be vaccinated should “leave the Philippines” and go elsewhere including India or the United States.
The Philippines has struggled to roll out vaccines with just below 2% of the population vaccinated.
Duterte spokesman, Harry Roque, a former rights lawyer, said that Philippine law allows a president to compel compulsory vaccination, but such efforts should be supported by legislation.
Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, told The New York Times imposing jail time for those who refuse vaccinations would be illegal.
“There is no law that specifically empowers the president to order such arrests for said reasons, even if this is a health emergency,” Olalia said.