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Fact check: DILG claims 'over 42,000 PDLs' now jabbed but figures say otherwise

Philstar.com
Fact check: DILG claims 'over 42,000 PDLs' now jabbed but figures say otherwise
In this photo taken June 2018, a K9 team searches for contraband during an inspection of the Manila City Jail.
Joven Cagande, file

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 7:17 p.m.) — Data released by the Department of the Interior and Local Government on Sunday show that 27,547 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) in jails managed by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology have been vaccinated against COVID-19 but quotes from officials suggested a higher number had been inoculated.

This is misleading and incomplete. 

What they said: In the statement sent to reporters Sunday, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año reported that "35% or 42,493 of the 122,498 persons deprived of liberty" around the country have already received COVID-19 jabs.

The DILG in its statement claimed that "as of September 13, of the over 42,000 PDLs who got jabbed, 27,951 have received their first dose, 7,473 got their [second] dose, and another 7,069 have received single-dose vaccines and are completely vaccinated."

What was left out: With these numbers, however, only 22.5% or 27,547 out of the 122,498 have actually been vaccinated for the coronavirus. 

His statement actually shared the total number of vaccine doses administered but claimed it was the total number of "PDLs in jails given COVID-19 jabs" by counting the second doses as separate vaccine beneficiaries. 

But the number of individuals who are vaccinated is actually the total first doses minus the total second doses. The DILG simply added them. 

A DILG offiicial, who declined to be named for lack of authority to make official statements, said in response to queries that the figures are correct.

The official did not respond to requests for clarification on whether vaccinees who received their second dose were included in the count of those who received their first dose.

Why this matters: Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. in press briefings also reports total vaccines administered — regardless of whether they are first or second doses — instead of vaccines administered per population. 

Government officials and state media, including Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque, continue to present only aggregate figures for vaccination to back up the claim that the Philippines is a Top 5 country in Southeast Asia in vaccination. 

"This is a testament that our vaccination program is on track and is continuously scaling up despite the multiple challenges we have faced in the past weeks," Galvez said earlier this month. 

Essential context: On August 30, an article by GMA News Online cites BJMP data saying that 16,380 or 13.16% of PDLs have been administered at least one dose. 

On Sunday, the DILG reported that the number of PDLs who received at least one dose was now at 27,951 but claimed the percentage was now at 35% or "42,493 PDLs who got jabbed."

The DILG said it was citing data “as of September 13,” less than half a month after the BJMP’s press conference.

BJMP Spokesperson Xavier Solda added at a press conference that the 10,939 with complete doses as of August 30 only composed 9.14% of PDLs who were fully vaccinated.

The DILG's update on Sunday tallied 14,542 fully vaccinated PDLs out of 122,498 individuals, good for 11.8%. 

Philstar.com sought Solda for clarification Sunday. He has yet to respond.

Per Our World in Data, the Philippines remains among the worst countries in Southeast Asia when it comes to vaccination rates.

What kind of misinformation is this?: The claims are an example of misleading content through the use of genuine numbers to frame the issue in a certain way and forward a certain narrative.

Though the numbers are genuine and the Philippines has indeed administered 42.1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Wednesday, they do not necessarily indicate success in fighting the virus the way the numbers would have you believe. 

This is because the numbers are somewhat inflated by the fact that those who receive second doses are the same people who received the first doses and do not count as separate vaccinated individuals. 

The numbers are legitimate were not doctored. It is unclear if the numbers used in the statement were deliberately misleading.

DILG urges intensified vaccination for PDLs

Año said the DILG and the BJMP are in continuous coordination with the National Vaccine Operations Center and the concerned local governments regarding the vaccine allocation and immunization of both jail officers and PDLs in all 467 district, city and municipal jails.

The DILG chief pointed to BJMP jail facilities the Bocaue Municipal Jail and the Bataan District Jail where PDLs have already been 100% vaccinated after their LGUs allocated a steady supply of vaccines to PDLs.

He said there is no hesitancy among PDLs in facilities controlled by the BJMP to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Año urged LGUs to ensure sufficient allocation of vaccines for jail officers and PDLs.

"We are asking our LGUs to give adequate allocation to PDLs and jail officers. It is very dangerous to have the virus inside the prisons so they should also be vaccinated," he said.

Among uniformed BJMP personnel, 12,568 have so far been fully vaccinated while 14,441 have at least the first dose and are awaiting their second doses. The statement did not mention how many uniformed BJMP personnel need jabs. 

Año ended his statement by saying that "Our PDLs are not [...] second-class citizens."

"All in all, 14,542 PDLs already have complete doses and have full protection against COVID-19 and the vaccination program continues. Our goal is to have all PDLs in all our jail facilities vaccinated," said Año.

This story is part of the Philippine Fact-check Incubator, an Internews initiative to build the fact-checking capacity of news organizations in the Philippines and encourage participation in global fact-checking efforts

Have a claim you want fact-checked? Reach out to us at editor@philstar.com.

BJMP BUREAU OF JAIL MANAGEMENT AND PENOLOGY DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT DILG FACT CHECK
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