Probes launched on sale of vaccine slots in Metro Manila

Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star
Probes launched on sale of vaccine slots in Metro Manila
A health worker holds up a vial of China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine during the first phase of vaccinations for health workers at a hospital in Manila on March 1, 2021.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — The country’s top investigation agencies have zeroed in on the reported online sale of slots for vaccination against COVID-19 in the cities of Mandaluyong and San Juan, with authorities vowing to catch those behind the scheme.

“There’s a special place in hell for these kinds of people, but as early as now, we’ll make them all answer for this scam,” Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, said in a statement yesterday.

Eleazar directed the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to lead the probe to identify and arrest those taking advantage of the pandemic to rip off victims who don’t know any better.

He stressed that the scheme is illegal and urged citizens to report to authorities should they come across unscrupulous individuals offering vaccine slots.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)’s cybercrime division is also on the case upon the request Mandaluyong Mayor Carmelita Abalos.

“An investigation is underway. Through the NBI, we will know if these are real or dummy online accounts,” Abalos said, reiterating that vaccine slots in Mandaluyong are not for sale.

Earlier, San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora also denied vaccination slots were for sale.

Abalos vowed charges will be filed against the culprits. “We strongly condemn this illegal selling of our COVID-19 vaccines. All of the vaccines, regardless of the brand, are given free to all Mandaleños,” she said.

The other day, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año also directed Joint Task Force COVID Shield to determine whether the sale of vaccination slots is merely a scam or actually going on.

Yesterday, the DILG expressed alarm over reports that vaccination slots sold online fetch as much as P12,000.

“We asked the PNP to speed up their investigation in order to stop this,” said Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, spokesman of the DILG.

“This is alarming. I am surprised why this has come up when vaccines are free,” Malaya said. “If this is true, if this is really true, we’ll make sure they are punished. We will prosecute anyone responsible to the fullest extent of the law.”

For its part, the Department of Health (DOH) is also conducting an investigation and coordinating its findings with concerned local government units (LGUs).

“The DOH and the Department of the Interior and Local Government are doing our investigation. Let’s see what we can get,” DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

“They have violated the laws that we have right now. The emergency use authorization of these vaccines alone states that they cannot be commercialized and sold to people,” she said. – Romina Cabrera, Sheila Crisostomo

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