“You choose, vaccine or I will have you jailed,” President Rodrigo Duterte of Philippines said on Monday addressing people who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine. He also told them to leave the country if they would not cooperate with efforts to end a public health emergency. „Go to India if you want or somewhere, to America,” he said. The Philippines has reported more than 1.3 million COVID-19 cases and over 23,000 deaths. However, even health officials have stressed the importance of the vaccine, they also have made it clear it’s voluntary. There are 110 million people living in the Philippines, and the government has said its goal is to inoculate 70 million by the end of the year. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra acknowledged on Tuesday that there was no Philippine law criminalizing refusal to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. “Don’t get me wrong, there is a crisis in this country,” Duterte said. “I’m just exasperated by Filipinos not heeding the government.”
Duterte, who has been criticized for his tough approach to containing the virus, also stood by his decision not to let schools reopen. After winning the presidency in 2016, Duterte unleashed an anti-narcotics campaign that has killed thousands. Human rights groups say authorities have summarily executed drug suspects. Duterte has maintained impressive popularity ratings throughout his presidency.