Noynoy Aquino: Baseless claims of Acosta to blame for vaccination crisis

Lian Buan

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Noynoy Aquino: Baseless claims of Acosta to blame for vaccination crisis

The health department says the Dengvaxia controversy is the reason the drop in the number of vaccinations

MANILA, Philippines – Former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III has an unsolicited advice to the Duterte administration – call out the “baseless” claims of Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta to regain public trust on vaccination.

“Para maibalik ang tiwala sa ating mga nangangalaga sa kalusugan, pero hindi po natin ginagawa napansin nyo, meron bang nagkwestiyon? Balita ko nga ho ni hindi kinwestyon, pinagtanggol pa ‘yung mga nanakot,” Aquino said at the opposition people power rally on Saturday, February 23.

(We should question them to restore trust in our health workers, but we’re not doing it. I heard not only did they not question them, they even defended them.)

Aquino did not name Acosta but he alluded to her by describing her as “abugado na nagsusuot ng damit doktor (a lawyer who dresses up like a doctor).”

Aquino also hit PAO forensics chief Erwin Erfe, who conducted the pathology exam on dead bodies and later linked their deaths to the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, despite strong opposition from established physician groups who say that there is no scientific proof that the vaccine can cause death.

Aquino questioned Erfe’s credentials.

“Yung pinuntahan n’ya para mag-aral siya ang kailangan mo dapat may $660 ka na tuition, pangalawa manunuod ka ng video, singular hindi plural, at yung pangatlo susunod mag eeksamen ka, pero habang nag eeksamen ka bukas ang libro, open book exam. Kung ikaw naman, open book, bahala ka kailan ka magsa-submit kapag hindi mo pa naitama, may diperensya ka siguro,” Aquino said.

(His school’s requirements are $660 tuition, a video to watch, singular not plural, and an examination. But when you take the examination you can open your books, an open book exam. So if it’s an open boox exam and you could submit your test whenever you want, something’s wrong with you if you don’t pass it.)

Malacañang has defended Acosta  amid rising public blame for the measles outbreak. 

“The PAO chief as a lawyer is defending or pursuing the theory that favors the clients. In other words, she’s pursuing an advocacy, an impassioned one. So I cannot blame her for that,” said presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on February 7.


The vaccination rate across the Philippines plummeted after the Dengvaxia scare. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has permanently revoked Dengvaxia’s certificate after Sanofi Pasteur admitted that it could lead to severe dengue symptoms for people who have not had dengue before.

The Department of Health (DOH) says among the reasons for the measles outbreak is the reluctance of parents to have their children vaccinated. The fear to avail of free government immunization is blamed to the Dengvaxia controversy

Aquino praised the DOH campaign to educate Filipinos on the benefits of vaccination, but he said the administration should proactively dispel the claims of PAO.

“Kailangan nating balikan na teka lang, andami nitong sinabi na walang basehan, tinakot tayong lahat eh wala namang K yung opinyon nila, pareho lang sa opinion nating hindi aral sa medisina. Ba’t kayo maniniwala dyan? Ba’t kayo matatakot sa opinyon ng isang taong hindi kwalipikado na magbigay ng opinyon?” he said.

(We have to go back to the issue and say, wait, these people said a lot of baseless things, and they scared us with unworthy opinions. Their opinions are as good as ours who have not studied medicine. So why believe them? Why do we let ourselves be scared because of opinions of people who are not qualified to give us opinions?)

Aquino faces multiple complaints over the Dengvaxia controversy, including graft for the supposed rush in procurement of the vaccine.

Aquino said that according to Sanofi’s study, only .02% of those who have not had dengue before is at risk of acquiring more severe dengue symptoms. Aquino said that of the 837,000 people who received Dengvaxia, only 16.7 people are at risk, rounded off to 17.  –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.