President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to jail those who refuse to be vaccinated against the coronavirus as the Philippines battles one of Asia’s worst epidemics, with a cumulative total of more than 1.3 million cases and 23,000 deaths.
“You choose, vaccine or I put you in jail,” Duterte said in a televised address Monday following reports of low turnout at several vaccination sites in the capital Manila.
Duterte’s remarks contradict those of his health officials, who said that if people are asked to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, it is voluntary.
“Make no mistake, there is a crisis in this country,” Duterte said. “I’m just exasperated that Filipinos ignore the government. “
As of Sunday, authorities in the Philippines had fully immunized 2.1 million people, slowly progressing towards the government’s goal of 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 let schools reopen.
In the same address, he dealt a blow to the International Criminal Court (ICC), after an ICC prosecutor sought court permission for a full investigation into the drug war killings in the Philippines.
Duterte, who in March 2018 canceled the Philippines’ membership in the ICC founding treaty, reiterated that he would not cooperate with the investigation, calling the ICC “bullshit.”
“Why should I defend or face a charge in front of white people. You must be crazy, ”said Duterte, who after winning the presidency in 2016 sparked an anti-drug campaign that left thousands dead.
Human rights groups say authorities summarily executed drug suspects, but Duterte maintained those killed violently resisted arrest.
Wanted for comment, ICC tribunal spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said: “The tribunal is an independent judicial institution and does not comment on political statements. “