Officials covering up for the unauthorized vaccination of President Rodrigo Duterte’s security personnel and some Cabinet members should just step up and make themselves accountable for the issue, which sends a “wrong message” about the government’s priorities, Vice President Leni Robredo said Sunday.
In her weekly radio show Biserbisyong Leni, Robredo lamented how officials closest to the President managed to be the first ones to violate the laws in receiving the vaccine doses, which were not even regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
“Sana walang panlilinlang na gawin sa tao. Sana maging very transparent kasi ayaw nating magduda ang tao,” Robredo said. “Kung iyong mga pinakamalalapit sa Presidente, iyon pa iyong nag-violate ng mga existing protocols, ng mga batas, eh hindi ito nakakatulong.”
[Translation: I wish they do not deceive the people. I hope they just become very transparent because we don’t want people to have doubts. If those who are the closest to the President manage to violate existing protocols, the laws, then this is not helping.]
“Bakit hindi sinunod iyong protocols? Bakit may viniolate na batas? Bakit hindi sinunod iyong prioritization na ginawa ng IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force), ng DOH (Department of Health), ng vaccine czar?” she added.
[Translation: Why were the protocols not followed? Why was a law violated? Why wasn’t the prioritization laid down by the IATF, the DOH, and the vaccine czar not followed?]
Robredo then commented on the recent admission of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that the vaccines were “smuggled” and that the move was “justified” in line with the military’s duty to protect the President.
“Ang problema, ano iyong mensahe? Iyong mensahe dito pwede pala iyon kung meron kang means, kung meron kang pambili, pwede pala iyon,” Robredo said. “Madaling sabihing justified. Kung meron akong sakit…justified ba iyon dahil may sakit ako?”
[Translation: The problem is — what was the message? The message being sent was that as long as you have the means, and you have the capacity to buy, it’s acceptable. It’s easy to say it’s justified. If I were ill…can we say it’s still justified because I’m sick?]
The Vice President also expressed support for the Senate’s call to investigate the vaccination of members of the Presidential Security Group, but stressed that the probe can be resolved faster if the officials involved would just be transparent and honest with their answers, so the government could move on with bigger priorities in its COVID-19 response.
“Sana maging transparent na lang tapos akuin na lang iyong kasalanan, wala nang cover-up. Kasi imbis na nakatutok tayo sa mas importanteng mga bagay, iyan na naman ang aasikasuhin natin,” Roberedo said.
[Translation: I wish they would just be transparent and take responsibility, no more cover-ups. Because instead of us focusing on more important things, we have to deal with the issue.]
The FDA, the Bureau of Customs, and the National Bureau of Investigation’s Special Action Unit are also holding separate probes on the distribution and use of unregistered COVID-19 vaccines in the country.
In a radio interview on Saturday, Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa defended the PSG, claiming that they even deserve credit for treating themselves as “guinea pigs” when they received the unauthorized vaccine ahead of others.
The FDA has not yet authorized any COVID-19 vaccine for use in the Philippines. The agency’s director general warned against the use of unauthorized vaccines, saying their safety, quality, and efficacy are not guaranteed.
Uniformed personnel are supposed to be fifth in line among groups prioritized for vaccination, following health workers, senior citizens, indigent senior citizens, and the rest of the indigent population.