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OVP calls out Palace claim that Robredo suggested infomercial on vaccines
President Rodrigo Duterte presides over a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members prior to his talk to the people at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on Thursday, May 13, 2021.
PCOO/Handout

OVP calls out Palace claim that Robredo suggested infomercial on vaccines

(Philstar.com) - May 27, 2021 - 12:53pm

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo only said she was open to appearing in an infomercial with President Rodrigo Duterte to promote vaccination against COVID-19, her office said Thursday after the Palace claimed she was pushing to appear in one.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Wednesday night erroneously told President Rodrigo Duterte it was Robredo's idea. The president's spokesperson, who frequently accuses government critics of "politicizing" the pandemic, chose to take a swipe at Robredo at a meeting on the government's pandemic response.

READ: 'Where is Uncle Sam now?' Roque twits US, a top COVAX funder | Fact check: Palace says Philippines leads world in number of COVID-19 tests conducted

"Now that the number of people getting vaccinated is increasing, suddenly [Robredo] volunteered...she wants to appear in an infomercial with you," Roque told Duterte in Filipino. "Inside, I was thinking, after discrediting us and discrediting us, now she wants to join in." 

Though Roque was touting an increase in the number of vaccinations, the Philippines continues to face a significant vaccine hesitancy problem with a Social Weather Stations poll released this month found that vaccine acceptance in the Philippines is at 32%. This means that a little more than three in every ten Filipinos said they would be willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

"But anyway, it's your decision but what our vice president said is she wants to be with you in an infomercial for vaccine confidence," he also told the president.

OVP: We didn't suggest it

In response, Robredo's spokesperson Barry Gutierrez clarified that the "idea for a vaccine infomercial came from Senator Joel Villanueva." Villanueva made the suggestion in a statement issued on May 20. 

"One of our suggestions is for the president and the vice president to issue a joint public service announcement," Villanueva said in Filipino. "This is the kind of ad that will be effective in convincing a large part of our population that vaccines are safe." 

He made the suggestion again during an interview with CNN Philippines' "The Final Word" on May 21. 

READ: Palace cool, Robredo open to vaccine infomercial with Duterte

"The vice president simply expressed her willingness to do it to improve vaccination confidence, which remains alarmingly low." Gutierrez said. "She has always been ready to set aside politics and do what is necessary to help our fellow Filipinos." 

"Based on this statement from last night's Cabinet briefing, it is sadly clear that this administration will always put politics first, and will even lie to push its own agenda," he added. 

"Regardless, VP Leni's position remains the same — she has been working non-stop to help Filipinos overcome the various difficulties brought by COVID-19, and will always be ready to do more to serve our people." 

The government has tempered its language on achieving herd immunity, now saying it aims for "population protection" and walking back its goal of vaccinating up to 70 million Filipinos within the year. It  is now aiming to inoculate 50 to 60 million, with a focus on the so-called “NCR Plus 8 areas.”

As of May 25, almost halfway into 2021, a total of 1,029,061 people have completed the two-dose regimen against COVID-19, per Department of Health data.  The figure represents only 0.94% of the country’s 110 million population.

— Bella Perez-Rubio

HARRY ROQUE JOEL VILLANUEVA VICE PRESIDENT LENI ROBREDO
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