Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta on Friday lashed back at Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon over his pronouncement that she should be barred from reporting to work unless she gets immunized against Covid-19.
Acosta said Drilon should cease his “attacks” against her and revisit Republic Act (RA) 11525 or the Covid-19 Vaccination Law instead.
“The only thing that I can say to Sen. Drilon is that he should stop attacking me. He should attack RA 11525 which they legislated,” she said in an interview over Daily Tribune’s morning show Gising Na!
“It was stated there that the Covid-19 vaccines are experimental and those who are unvaccinated are not immune from the virus. It wasn’t me who said that,” she stated.
The minority leader on Wednesday questioned why Acosta, who admitted refusing the Covid-19 jabs, was allowed to physically report to the office despite being unvaccinated.
He warned that her continuous reluctance ran against the government’s push to get more Filipinos immunized and contributes to the vaccine hesitancy in the country.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra previously recognized Acosta’s right to reject inoculation but said that she should obey the restrictions the government has set to limit the mobility of those who opted not to get inoculated.
Acosta, however, argued that such policies including the “no vaccination, no ride” regulation of the Department of Transportation (DoTr) are “unconstitutional” and “discriminatory”.
She reiterated that it violates Section 12 of RA 11525 which states that vaccine cards “shall not be considered an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment, and other similar government transaction purposes” and Section 1 of Bill of Rights which provides that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, and property without due process of law.”
“This hurts me, honestly. They said I should just follow because I am a government official but I am still a lawyer. I’m a lawyer and a human being who should uphold the rule of law and constitution,” she said.
Asked whether she eyes lodging a formal complaint to suspend the policies, Acosta said she would rather appeal to the local government units (LGU) to be lenient to those who are yet to receive their coronavirus shots.
“We can make an appeal but I would rather call on to LGU for them not to violate the rights of the unvaccinated,” she said.
“One example is (Quezon City) Mayor Joy Belmonte who released a press advisory (a day after the implementation of the ‘no vaccine, no ride’ policy) clarifying that it was the HPG (Highway Patrol Group) that arrested the unvaccinated. She said they will be more lenient,” she added.
Instead of forcing people to receive the jabs, the lawyer said that the government should explain its risks and benefits and let the public decide for themselves.
“The DoH (Department of Health) should explain the beauty (of vaccination). It should inform (the people) on its benefits and risks so there will be informed consent,” she said. “Now if they want to take the risk, let them. If not, don’t punish them. Because this is getting obvious, the public is being forced.”
On Thursday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier appealed for Acosta to avail of the vaccine but she remained firm on her stand to wait for a “protein-based” jab due to her age and health restrictions.
Her situation was known to President Rodrigo Duterte, she stressed, disclosing that she personally sought the permission of the Chief Executive not to get immunized in the meantime.
She likewise refuted claims she is an “anti-vaxxer” noting that 91 percent of the PAO populace are vaccinated.
The Philippines is running against time in increasing the vaccination rate amid the spike in coronavirus cases in the country linked to the Omicron variant.
As of 20 January, it has administered 122,313,496 vaccine shots with 56,835,020 fully-vaccinated individuals and 59,607,306 waiting for their second dose. Some 5,871,170 meanwhile, have received their booster shots.
with ALVIN MURCIA