Take the vaccine or go to jail, says Philippines President
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is clearly disappointed with the slow pace of COVID-19 vaccination there. So much so that the 76-year-old leader has threatened his countrymen of dire consequences - including jail and deportation - if they refuse to take the jab. Philippines has been hard hit by the pandemic and is battling a fresh surge in infections even as vaccination numbers remain low.
"You choose, vaccine or I will have you jailed," Duterte said in a televised address on Monday, according to Reuters. "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. "Don't get me wrong. There is a crisis being faced in this country. There is a national emergency."
"Nobody likes it. But if you won't get vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India if you want or somewhere, to America. But as long as you are here and you are a human being that can carry the virus, get yourself vaccinated," Duterte thundered.
Duterte, who has held the top office in Philippines since 2016, also threatened to forcefully inject anti-parasite drug Ivermectin into people refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine. "I will order all the village captains to have a tally of the people who refuse to be vaccinated. Because if not, I will have Ivermectin meant for pigs injected into you," he said, as per Reuters.
Philippines is one of the worst-hit countries from the COVID-19 outbreak in Southeast Asia, with over 13 lakh cases and more than 23,000 deaths. However, vaccination has been slow - As of June 20, only 21 lakh people in the country had been fully vaccinated compared to the seven crore targeted by the government for this year. Philippines has a population of 11 crore.
Vaccine hesitancy is rampant in Philippines. According to studies cited by the local media, more than half of Filipinos are unwilling to get vaccinated against COVID-19, fearing that the jabs are not safe.
Duterte is infamous for his hostile attitude and controversial statements. In the same address on Monday, he ridiculed the International Criminal Court, after a court prosecutor sought permission for an inquiry into thousands of killings in a war on drugs in Philippines. "Why would I defend or face an accusation before white people. You must be crazy," he reportedly said, calling the ICC "bu***hit."