Duterte: Families of security forces will also be prioritized in gov't vaccination program
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte visits soldiers to witness the conferment of the Order of Lapu-Lapu with the rank of Kamagi to 23 soldiers at Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Headquarters in Jolo, Sulu on January 22, 2021.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Facebook page

Duterte: Families of security forces will also be prioritized in gov't vaccination program

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - January 23, 2021 - 4:46pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday night said the military, the police and their families will be among the first to receive free coronavirus jabs from the government.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. last month said some over half a million uniformed personnel would be fifth in line to receive the vaccine. He did not mention any provisions for their families.

However, as he addressed the military in Jolo, Sulu, Duterte said he would instruct Galvez to prioritize the families of security force members as well.

"I will really prioritize the poor, as well as uniformed service because what will happen if they get sick?" he said in Filipino. "[H]ow can we function [as] a government with a sick soldier or policeman in your midst?" 

"Magpunta ‘yung mag-inject sa mga kampo, tuturukan pati ‘yung mga anak ninyo. (Those who will be vaccinated will go to the camps, and your children will be vaccinated too.)"

Under the government's inoculation plan, vaccines will first be given to healthcare workers, followed by indigent senior citizens, remaining senior citizens and the rest of the indigent population. 

The president and his men

But Duterte himself has bypassed the roadmap he set, allowing members of his security detail to be inoculated first with smuggled vaccines from China, something which health groups and advocates have decried. 

Members of his Cabinet and several government agencies have had to clarify that vaccinations with jabs not yet approved by local regulators are prohibited by the government, a message undermined by the fact that clearly not everyone is bound by such rules. 

Throughout his presidency, he has made his prioritization of the military and the police clear, something which was evidenced again in his Friday night speech where he said he was speaking from his heart and told troops repeatedly that he really loved them.

The president has also sought to exempt them from any consequence or punishment mandated by the law, most recently instructing the Armed Forces of the Philippines to drop its probe on the unregulated vaccination effort of the Presidential Security Group. Duterte recently barred the PSG from cooperating with a Senate probe on the country's national vaccination plan, threatening "a crisis" if lawmakers insist on summoning members of his security detail over their use of smuggled vaccines.

In the face of a medical crisis, the president assigned retired members of the security forces, rather than medical experts, to leadership positions. Galvez, who Duterte has repeatedly said is the only person he trusts to negotiate for vaccines on behalf of the country, is a retired general of the Philippine Army.

Last year, when the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. was hounded by allegations of corruption and mismanagement relating to its disbursement of COVID-19 funds to hospitals, Duterte repeatedly defended retired Brig. Gen. Ricardo Morales, who he appointed to head the agency in 2019. When Morales resigned, citing his lymphoma or cancer of the lymph nodes, the president replaced him with former National Bureau of Investigation Director Dante Gierran who admitted he had no prior knowledge or experience in the field of public health.

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