Mon Tulfo admits getting inoculated with smuggled Sinopharm shots, eyes local distributorship

Mon Tulfo admits getting inoculated with smuggled Sinopharm shots, eyes local distributorship
Photo shows special envoy to China Mon Tulfo.
Facebook / Mon Tulfo

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s special envoy to China Mon Tulfo nonchalantly admitted that he received smuggled Sinopharm shots last year along with other government officials. He insisted there is nothing improper with the chief executive asking samples of the unregistered vaccine.

In an interview with “The Chiefs” on One News Tuesday, Tulfo said others who were inoculated with the smuggled vaccines were “Cabinet-level” officials and a senator whose names he withheld. He said some members of the Presidential Security Group were also inoculated with the same vaccine.

“I don’t feel guilty about it,” he said when asked if government officials, including him, knowingly received smuggled goods.

Medical frontliners are at the top of the government's priority list for COVID-19 vaccination. Aside from them, senior citizens, indigent population and uniformed personnel are also among the priority groups. 

The China-made vaccine has no authorization for emergency use in the Philippines. It has not even applied for such approval.

But the country’s Food and Drug Administration issued a “compassionate use license” for the president’s security detail to take 10,000 Sinopharm shots months after their unauthorized inoculation, which left health authorities surprised and the public enraged.

‘No irregularity’

In a Manila Times column, Tulfo said he put Duterte on the phone with the “Sinopharm representative in the country” and requested for samples of the jab for him and his family. Malacañang said Duterte prefers the vaccine developed by Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical company.

“I don’t find any irregularity there,” Tulfo said.

“We’re now given a choice. Which comes first: the lives of millions of Filipinos or propriety?” he added.

Tulfo also claimed vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. was “always unavailable” when reached out to talk about the facilitation of the delivery of those vaccines. He said the former military general appears to be against Sinopharm “for reasons only he knows”

Conflict of interest

Tulfo also said he has applied to be a Philippine distributor of Sinopharm vaccine with a company called “Apollo.” He said the firm supposedly secured a contract with a Singapore subsidiary of Sinopharm.

He also denied using his position to secure a deal on local distributorship and get vaccine doses for himself, his drivers and his bodyguards.

“I got hold of the vaccine from a friend who smuggled it into the country,” he said.

“I don’t see any conflict of interest here because I’m a private citizen,” Tulfo said, claiming he is “technically not a government official” because his position as special envoy is only “honorific.” — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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