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LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Stop the censorship! Respect the citizens’ right to free speech and freedom of expression!

THE Alliance of Dabawenyos for Freedom and Informed Choice, one of the convenors of the Alliance of Filipinos for Freedom and Informed Choice, expresses our STRONG INDIGNATION over the threat and intimidation we received over the past days in the light of the billboard that expresses a question to parents from the perspective of the child:

 “Nay. Tay, Ngano Imo Kung Pabakunahan?”

 We question the untimely removal of the billboard as ordered by Engr. Cirinia Grace Catubig of the Office of the City Building Official.  We also find very disturbing their claim that the advertisement “does not conform to the program of the current administration in enticing the public to support the vaccination program.”  What does this mean?  Is it not that the program of the current administration is encouraging INFORMED CONSENT on COVID vaccination for children and adults?  In what way does the ad run in contrary to the government’s vaccination drive?  Is it not a better picture that those parents who opt for COVID vaccination for their children are those who have made a thorough decision-making over their children’s health and future? 

 We decry the outright yet unjustifiable label of “anti-vaccination” on the billboard.

 We also strongly denounce the statement of City COVID 19 Task Force Spokesperson Dr. Michelle Schlosser, pointedly saying that they are studying what they can do against the people behind the billboard, declaring that these people have “plot against the government, and against the ways of the government in terms of the vaccination rollout.”  She even went far by saying that the “city security cluster was also tasked to intensify its monitoring to determine the people behind these campaign drives.”  The whole point of her interview is utterly unbelievable.  Dr. Schlosser sounds less of a medical doctor than a medical tyrant who just summarily generates these dangerous conclusions.  Instead of raising the ante of public discourse on the matter of COVID vaccination, especially for children, she resorted to threat and intimidation, precariously compromising the lives of Dabawenyos who are committing themselves to promote an intelligent Davao citizenry.  This seems to undermine the very essence of DEMOCRACY that the city and the whole country won in the last 36 years. 

 Ø  When did making parents think twice about the safety of their children become unlawful?

Ø  When did standing up for the right to choose become an offense?

Ø  When did questioning the government’s programs become illegal?

Ø  Does being in a state of pandemic now tantamount to the justification of militaristic subjugation and control of the citizens’ right to free speech and freedom of expression? 

Ø  Are we unaware of the existence of a different Philippine Constitution?

 The billboard is an APPEAL to parents to EMPOWER themselves in the midst of this health crisis.  It is a CALL for parents to discern more consciously over the health and future of their children by studying more and knowing more the nature of COVID, and the safety and efficacy of the COVID vaccines.  We believe that parents and adults in child-caring roles must be made capable of DISCERNMENT and INDEPENDENT JUDGMENT on the best routes to keep their children healthy, protected, and safe in this time.  It is important that parents know their fundamental human rights, and that their children have human rights, too.  It is only in this way that the parents can provide a GENUINE INFORMED CONSENT on COVID vaccination, especially for children.  Is it not more helpful for the government to have more citizens with such capacity in shaping its health policies that are supposed to be for the benefit of the many?

 

Should parents choose the COVID vaccine for their children, they must be made fully aware of its Emergency Use Approval: of the needed long-term studies to determine short-term and long-term effects; of questions on liability, of immunity privileges; and of Republic Act 11525 and the Philippine Constitution.   At the end of the day, it will be the parents and caregivers who will have to make the decision for their children.    

 As we value how sacred and special each young life is, it is why we are calling to parents to #resisttherush because it is #safertowait until the COVID vaccines are proven safe and effective beyond a reasonable doubt.  Dr. Schlosser herself admitted that the COVID vaccines are still under experimentation, despite the fact that they underwent several tests.  With this, we strongly DEBUNK the notions of misinformation/spreading misconception as an intention of the billboard. 

 We want to make it very clear that WE ARE NOT AGAINST COVID VACCINATION, and the billboard is NOT ANTI-VACCINATION.  What we are against is downright abuse of authority just to force COVID vaccines down the throats of children and the people despite the reality of conflicting science.  We are against any form of violation against the rights of children and the people to life and health.  We are against systematic coercion and discrimination, and the utter disregard for human rights and the laws of the land, especially the Philippine Constitution.

 The “anti-vaccination”/ “anti-vaxx” label, and, worse, the “anti-government” imposition on these efforts poorly miss out on this vivid message of the billboard.  It is a far cry to what we want to convey to the broadest mass of the Filipino public.  It is a lazy dismissal of the opportunity for introspection – or at the very least, to study an argument that seeks further light on the claims of vaccine manufacturers and the government in the face of emerging yet unbiased scientific researches on COVID and COVID vaccination.  Proliferating the use of “anti-vaccination” / “anti-vaxx” and “anti-government” labels on public education efforts exposes the intent of further polarizing the Filipino people – both vaxxed and vaxx-free, promoting discrimination, and inciting disrespect and intolerance for individual health choices – and such are the perfect gateway for conflict and unrest.

 On this special day of the EDSA People Power commemoration, we reiterate the following CALLS:

     We demand an explanation in writing from the Office of the City Building Official elaborating the reason behind the order to take the billboard down, and in what way it is not in conformity to the current administration program in enticing the public on vaccination.

     We are NOT ANTI-GOVERNMENT.  Stop the malicious yet dangerous insinuation that the people, and the Alliance, behind the billboard are against the government.  Doing so undermines the democratic rights and freedoms of the people.  It is an obvious militaristic maneuvering to divide the people of Davao and the nation.  Do not endanger the lives of constituents who are, through legal and democratic means, aiding and supporting the government to make sound and healthy policies.  We call on the City Government of Davao to never condone such A blatant gesture of irresponsibility, especially among public health officials.    

     Even in a time of pandemic, honor the Davao City CHILDREN’S CODE.  Being a city lauded as “Most Child-Friendly” for several years, this sets the high standards that all policies, including health, integrate a pro-active lens that ensures the best interest of children – and that includes their right to life (survival) and health.  This is such a special time to breathe life into this achievement.

     We will continue to offer spaces for the general public where varying opinions on COVID vaccination can be heard and discerned upon.  We will invite Dr. Schlosser and DOH in these spaces where we can hear their extensive scholarly knowledge on the safety and efficacy of COVID vaccines for children.  In these spaces, we hope to see them engage openly and publicly with other equally knowledgeable experts who stand on strong grounds that, on COVID vaccination for children, it is #safertowait. 

     “If the DOH and the NTF are so convinced of the wisdom of their policy of mass vaccinating the children against COVID-19, we challenge them and all those who will actually administer the vaccination program to VOLUNTARILY, OFFICIALLY, and PUBLICLY WAIVE their immunity privilege under Section 8 of Republic Act 11525.”  (From the Response to the DOH and NTF Statement on Child Vaccination dated February 3, 2022 and the Statement of Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. dated February 6, 2022 by Concerned Groups of Doctors, Parents and Citizens)

 We wish to tell all Dabawenyos – vaxxed and vaxx-free – to stand vigilant and united.  Let us not allow COVID to disintegrate the fabric of the country’s social health as manifested by these attempts to curtail freedom and suppress the rights of people.  Lest we forget, Davao City came out victorious from the shadow of darkness on that historical day of February 25, 1986.  Let us not squander this victory. ###

  

For reference:  Alcherie Patino

                        Spokesperson

                        adfic2021@gmail.com

 

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