VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Marcoleta errs in claiming teachers ‘last’ in COVID-19 vaccination priority

In a video statement on Feb. 21, SAGIP Party-list Representative Rodante Marcoleta mistakenly claimed that teachers sit last in the government’s vaccination program against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

This, as he called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to rethink any plans to resume in-person or “face-to-face” classes amid the pandemic.

Watch this video:

Based on the announcement of Roque, concurrently the spokesperson of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), the order of vaccination priority is as follows:

This list had also been reported by several news reports prior to Marcoleta’s statement.

On Feb. 22, Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte turned down for the second time DepEd’s proposed pilot test study on “limited physical classes” in low-risk areas for COVID-19:

[N]agdesisyon na po ang Presidente ha, wala pa rin po tayong face-to-face classes sa bansa …. [A]yaw po niyang malagay sa panganib o alanganin ang buhay ng ating mga mag-aaral at mga guro habang wala pa pong nababakunahan sa bansa.

(The president has decided already, still no face-to-face classes in the country … He doesn’t want to endanger or put at risk the lives of our students and teachers while no one has been vaccinated yet in the country.)

Source: Office of the Presidential Spokesperson, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Feb. 22, 2021

Duterte said students may be able to return to classroom learning by August, especially in areas with low numbers of COVID-19 cases, “once the vaccination program has been launched,” according to his spokesman.

The president, in early December 2020, greenlighted DepEd’s proposal — initially slated for implementation in January 2021 — but postponed it later that month due to the threat of the COVID-19 virus variant from the United Kingdom (U.K.), which, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spreadsmore easily and quickly.”

In a statement on Feb. 24 following the second postponement, the education department said it “understand[s] that the availability and rollout of vaccines in the country are critical factors for this undertaking.” In the meantime, it said it will “continue preparing action plans for this activity should the president give his approval in the coming months.”

DepEd has set what it calls “stringent” conditions to its field offices for the pilot study, including that:

  • participating areas must be categorized as “low-risk;” meaning, they are at least under modified general community quarantine;
  • there be “shared responsibility” for the program among DepEd, the local government units involved, the parents or guardians, and transportation providers; and that,
  • stringent health and safety standards be followed at home, during travel to and from schools, and within school premises.

A total of 1,904 public schools across the country have been identified as possible participants for the pilot study, DepEd noted in its statement.

Several senators have urged DepEd and the government to push through with the pilot implementation of in-person classes even in just a limited number of schools.

During a hearing of the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, also on Feb. 24, committee chair Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said the pilot study is a “good way for our scientists to study what can be done to mitigate the effects of COVID.”

Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, in the same hearing, suggested to limit the number of pilot areas to “just a hundred,” saying that what’s important is for the government to be able to “identify the gaps” in implementation early on before it is expanded to cover more schools.


Sources, Hon. Marcoleta, Rodente D., Accessed on Feb. 26, 2021

Rep. Rodante Marcoleta official Youtube channel, CONG. RODANTE MARCOLETA: FACE TO FACE CLASSES, HINDI PA NAPAPANAHON, Feb. 21, 2021

Office of the Presidential Spokesperson, Announcement of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque PTV Balita Ngayon, PTV-4 Manila Harbor Center Port, Feb. 5, 2021

PTV, ICYMI: Kabuuang pahayag ni Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque hinggil sa mga bagong polisiya ng IATF kontra, Feb. 5, 2021, LIST: Priority groups for government’s Covid-19 vaccination program, Feb. 5, 2021

Rappler, Gov’t releases new vaccine priority list, includes persons with comorbidities, Feb. 5, 2021

CNN Philippines, LIST: Priority sectors, subgroups in COVID-19 vaccination program, Feb. 5, 2021

Office of the Presidential Spokesperson, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Feb. 22, 2021, Duterte OKs pilot testing of face-to-face classes, Dec. 15, 2020

Daily Tribune, Duterte OKs pilot testing of face-to-face classes in January, Dec. 14, 2020

CNN Philippines, Duterte OKs pilot testing of face-to-face classes in low risk areas, Dec. 14, 2020

Presidential Communications Operations Office, President Duterte cancels in-person classes amid fears over new COVID-19 strain, Dec. 27, 2021

World Health Organization, SARS-CoV-2 Variant – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Dec. 21, 2021

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, About the Variants of the Virus that Causes COVID-19, Accessed on Feb. 26, 2021

Department of Education, On the Pilot Implementation of Limited Face-to-Face Classes, Feb. 24, 2021

Senate of the Philippines, ANC Matters of Fact interview of Sen. Win Gatchalian with Christian Esguerra on the pilot implementation of face-to-face classes, Feb. 25, 2021

Senate of the Philippines, Pangilinan calls for pilot opening of 100 schools, instead of 1,065, for face-to-face classes, Feb. 24, 2021

ABS-CBN News, ‘We need the experience’: Senators want dry run of face-to-face classes, Feb. 24, 2021

Rappler, Senators want pilot test of face-to-face classes to ‘fine-tune’ system, Feb. 25, 2021

BusinessWorld, Include teachers in vaccine priority list, government asked, Feb. 24, 2021


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)