‘Sampal sa gobyerno:’ Drilon wants unvaxxed PAO chief barred from working
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday urged Malacanang and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to bar Public Attorneys Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta from reporting to work unless she is vaccinated against COVID-19.
Despite the government’s attempt to convince people to get their COVID-19 vaccination, Drilon said it is “unacceptable” that Acosta is unvaccinated.
“Hindi ba sampal iyon sa gobyerno (Isn’t that a slap in the face of the government)? I hope it is not deliberate but Acosta’s recent statements can fuel vaccine hesitancy that we are trying to address,” Drilon said in a statement.
“Until she gets vaccinated, she should be barred from reporting to work,” he added.
Drilon warned that the government could be accused of double standards if it allows Acosta to report to work while restricting the movement of unvaccinated 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.
In an interview over ANC’s Headstart early this week, Acosta admitted that she opted not to get vaccinated due to her age and health considerations.
Drilon said barring Acosta from reporting to work is also consistent with President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncements to restrict the movement of unvaccinated individuals for the common good.
Drilon, a former justice secretary, said that the government could impose restrictions for unvaccinated Filipinos to contain the further spread of the coronavirus and promote public health, and it is well within the state’s power to restrict unvaccinated people’s movement.
“It is a valid and reasonable exercise of police power to promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the people,” he said.
“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,’” he added.
“The State may also interfere with personal liberty to promote the general welfare as long as the interference is reasonable and not arbitrary,” he also said.
According to Drilon, police powers have long been used to promote public health and safety. The US Supreme Court upheld compulsory vaccination against smallpox in 1905 after finding that it had a “real and substantial relation to the protection of the public health and safety,” Drilon said.
He cited another case from 1922 where parents of an unvaccinated child were excluded from school for violating the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses.
The court found that compulsory vaccination belongs within the police powers of the State and that the ordinance did not give the State arbitrary powers, but only that broad discretion needed for the protection of public health, Drilon said.
Many Filipinos are less willing to get vaccinated, Drilon noted, even though vaccine acceptance has improved.
“One of them, unfortunately, is a member of the administration. Acosta can make a good case study for the government,” he said.
“If you can convince Acosta to get vaccinated, then the government has a better chance of persuading every Juan dela Cruz to get vaccinated,” he added.
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