Senate of the Philippines

Drilon asks why unvaxxed PAO chief allowed to work: ‘Hindi ba sampal iyon sa gobyerno?’

Mara Cepeda

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Drilon asks why unvaxxed PAO chief allowed  to work: ‘Hindi ba sampal iyon sa gobyerno?’

UNVAXXED WOES. Pictured here are PAO chief Persida Acosta and Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon.

Senator Frank Drilon says the government has double standards if it allows PAO chief Persida Acosta to keep working while restricting the movement of other unvaccinated Filipinos

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon said President Rodrigo Duterte’s government should not allow Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta to report to work given her refusal to get her coronavirus shots. 

The veteran lawmaker and key opposition figure said in a statement on Wednesday, January 19, that Acosta’s unvaccinated status could promote vaccine hesitancy in the country now struggling with the Omicron variant-driven surge. 

Drilon argued Acosta being unvaccinated also ran counter to the government’s ongoing push to get more Filipinos better protected against COVID-19, which has infected over 3.29 million people in the Philippines. 

Hindi ba sampal iyon sa gobyerno (Isn’t this a slap in the face of government)? I hope it is not deliberate, but Acosta’s recent statements can fuel vaccine hesitancy that we are trying to address,” said Drilon. 

Acosta confessed in an ANC Headstart interview on Monday, January 17, that she still has not been vaccinated against COVID-19, citing her age and health issues. She insisted she was not an anti-vaxxer, a term for people who do not believe in vaccines. 

The PAO chief also said in the same interview that the Duterte government’s “No vaxx, no ride” policy in Metro Manila is unconstitutional. 

Drilon, however, accused the administration of having double standards if it allows Acosta to report to work while restricting the movement of ordinary Filipinos who are still not vaccinated. This controversial policy has drawn widespread flak from lawmakers and the public alike. 

“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. The government should take the same hardline stance against their own officials. Set an example with Acosta,” Drilon said. 

Acosta gained notoriety pre-pandemic after she repeatedly claimed that children who had received the Dengvaxia dengue vaccine supposedly died because of their jabs. There is no scientific proof backing Acosta’s claim. 

The Dengvaxia controversy created a national health scare that saw immunization rates for various diseases plummeting in the country. This dip in immunization resulted in outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and polio.

Fast forward to the present day, the Philippine government continues to grapple with vaccine hesitancy among Filipinos as the COVID-19 pandemic rages. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.