‘Mystery riders’ to be deployed in DOTr’s ‘no vaccination, no ride’ scheme

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 14)— In a bid to ensure cooperation, the government will deploy “mystery riders” when it implements the policy banning the unvaccinated in public transport in Metro Manila, an official said Friday.

The so-called “mystery passengers” will be disguised as regular commuters, Transportation Undersecretary Steve Pastor said in a media briefing.

"Bakit ho sila kailangan ma-deploy? Para masiguro po natin na kahit walang nakauniporme na enforcer ay sumusunod po ang ating mga drivers sa ating polisiya," Pastor said.

[Translation: Why do they need to be deployed? So we can ensure that even without uniformed enforcers, drivers will still follow our policy.]

Pastor added several agencies will also help implement the policy, which starts on Monday.

The government’s “no vaccination, no ride” policy will prohibit those who have yet to get their COVID-19 shots from taking any public transport whenever the capital region is under Alert Level 3 or higher.

As a general rule, a fully vaccinated person would need to show a physical or digital copy of his or her ID, as well as the vaccination card or certificate, before being allowed to buy tickets or enter a public utility vehicle (PUV).

But there are exemptions:

-If your medical condition disallows you to get vaccinated, you need to show a medical certificate with the name and contact details of your doctor;

-If you're availing of essential goods and services, you need to show a barangay health pass or any proof to justify the travel; and

-If you're going to a vaccination center to get inoculated.

PUV operators are meanwhile tasked to ensure that all their personnel are already fully inoculated. Drivers also need to display their vaccination cards, while conductors need to wear it with their IDs.

The “no vaccination, no ride” policy faced backlash from netizens, transport advocates, and officials who questioned the fairness and legality of the protocol. The Commission on Human Rights said the policy restricts the exercise and enjoyment of fundamental rights.

“Please remember that the so-called right to ride needs to be balanced with our responsibility as transport regulator to maintain and preserve safe travel," said Reinier Yebra, Transportation Undersecretary for Legal Affairs.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the policy will have a big impact on workers as the business group bats for more commuter safety amid the COVID-19 case surge.

"This might constraint the commuters, especially the daily wage earners," PCCI president George Barcelon told CNN Philippines' The Final Word on Friday.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.