Press Release
January 19, 2022

Drilon: Malacanang, DOJ should not allow unvaxxed PAO chief to report to work
'Hindi ba sampal iyon sa gobyerno?' Drilon says

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon urged Malacanang and the Department of Justice (DOJ) not to allow Public Attorneys Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta to report to work, saying that the PAO chief's continued refusal to get vaccinated undermines the government's COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

"Acosta is putting the life, health and safety of her co-workers in danger and that should be dealt with accordingly and decisively," Drilon said in a statement on Wednesday.

Drilon said the government will be accused of double standards if it allows Acosta to report to work while it restricts the movement of unvaxxed ordinary Filipinos.

"If the government is serious about its 'no vax, stay at home; no vax, no ride policy,' it should apply it to all. Otherwise it will not work," Drilon said.

"The government should take the same hardline stance against their own officials. Set an example with Acosta," he stressed.

Drilon added that barring Acosta from reporting to work is consistent with the President's pronouncements that he will restrict movements of unvaxxed individuals "for common good."

The former justice secretary said that the government may impose restrictions for unvaccinated Filipinos to contain the further spread of the COVID-19 virus and promote the general welfare and public health.

Acosta's boss, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, also said the same, saying in an interview that while there is no law making anti-COVID vaccination mandatory, the PAO chief has to obey government regulations restricting the movement of unvaccinated individuals in the interest of public safety.

It is well within the power of the State to restrict the movement of unvaccinated individuals, according to Drilon.

"It is a valid and reasonable exercise of police power to promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the people. The general welfare clause also provides sufficient authority to the State to implement measures for the 'maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and promotion of the general welfare,'" Drilon said.

"The State may also interfere with personal liberty to promote the general welfare as long as the interference is reasonable and not arbitrary," he previously said.

In the United States, Drilon said the exercise of police power in promoting public health and safety has long been upheld. In 1905, the US Supreme Court in Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts [197 U.S. 11 (1905)] upheld the compulsory vaccination of persons over the age of 21 against smallpox. It ruled that the vaccination program had a "real and substantial relation to the protection of the public health and safety."

Drilon also cited Zucht v. King [260 U.S. 174 (1922)] wherein the parents of an unvaccinated child excluded from school challenged the ordinance requiring vaccinations for schoolchildren as violative of the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses. The Court held that "it is within the police power of a State to provide for compulsory vaccination" and that the ordinance did not bestow "arbitrary power, but only that broad discretion required for the protection of the public health."

Drilon said that he finds it "unacceptable" that while the government is persuading people to get their COVID-19 shots, Acosta remains unvaccinated.

'Hindi ba sampal iyon sa gobyerno?" Drilon said, "I hope it is not deliberate but Acosta's recent statements can fuel vaccine hesitancy that we are trying to address."

While vaccine acceptance has improved in the country, Drilon said the number of Filipinos unwilling to get vaccinated remains a cause of concern.

"One of them, unfortunately, is a member of the administration. Acosta can make a good case study for the government. If you can convince Acosta to get vaccinated, then the government has a better chance of persuading every Juan dela Cruz to get vaccinated," Drilon said.

"But until she gets vaccinated, she should be barred from reporting to work" he said.

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