Mandatory vaccinations for soldiers are legal and not a violation of the Constitution, said lawmakers earlier this week.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Koko Pimentel’s statement followed Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Edgardo Arevalo’s announcement that troops would receive CoronaVac jabs developed by Sinovac Biotech.
Drilon said that compulsory vaccinations were justifiable exercise of police power as it ensured public health, safety and general welfare. He added that authority to require mandatory inoculations fell under such police power.
The senator cited cases in the United States dating back to the 1900s in which states had required compulsory vaccination laws for particular populations. One such case was Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which upheld the mandatory inoculation of people over 21 years old against smallpox.
In such cases, vaccinations had “real and substantial relation” to safeguarding public health and safety.
Pimentel, for his part, said that “a different set of rules apply to the Armed Forces because a different kind of discipline is expected of them given the important and unique nature of their role in our national life.”
For him, President Duterte—the commander-in-chief—was within reason should he order mandatory inoculation for troops. He noted however, that it was not necessarily the same for the Philippine National Police as they are a civilian agency.
Earlier this week, 600,000 doses of the Sinovac jab were delivered to the Philippines, signaling the beginning of the country’s vaccination program.