President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to jail people who refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus as the Philippines battles one of Asia’s worst outbreaks, with a cumulative total of more than 1.3 million cases and 23,000 deaths.
“You choose the vaccine or I will put you in jail,” Duterte said in a televised speech Monday after reports of low turnout at various vaccination sites in the capital Manila.
Duterte’s comments contradict those of his health officials, who have said that while people are urged to get the Covid-19 vaccine, it was voluntary.
“Don’t get me wrong, there is a crisis in this country,” Duterte said. “I am exasperated that the Filipinos are not paying attention to the government.”
As of Sunday, Philippine authorities had fully vaccinated 2.1 million people, slowly moving toward the government’s goal of up to 70 million of the country’s 110 million people.
Duterte, who has been criticized for his tough approach to containing the virus, also upheld his decision not to allow schools to reopen.
In the same direction, he attacked the international criminal court (ICC), after an ICC prosecutor asked the court for permission to conduct a full investigation into the Philippine drug war killings.
Duterte, who in March 2018 terminated the Philippines’ membership in the founding treaty of the ICC, repeated that he would not cooperate with the investigation and described the ICC as “bullshit.”
“Why would I defend myself or face an accusation before the whites? You must be crazy, ”said Duterte, who after winning the presidency in 2016 unleashed an anti-drug campaign that has killed thousands.
Human rights groups say authorities have summarily executed drug suspects, but Duterte said those killed violently resisted arrest.
ICC Court spokesman Fadi El Abdallah, who requested comment, said: “The court is an independent judicial institution and does not comment on political statements.”