What a disappointment

THE CORNER ORACLE - Andrew J. Masigan (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2021 - 12:00am

The events surrounding the advanced vaccination of the President’s men spoke volumes about this administration. While they trumpet themselves as being the champion of the masses, an advocate of the law and eradicators of graft, their actions show quite the opposite.

In a statement last month, the President himself admitted, and I quote, “Halos lahat ng sundalo natusukan na (Almost all soldiers have been vaccinated). I have to be frank and I have to tell the truth. I will not foist a lie. Marami nang nagpatusok (Many have been vaccinated).”

So the truth was revealed.  Uniformed personnel including the Presidential Security Group (PSG), certain members of the military and at least one Cabinet member were vaccinated with an unregistered Chinese-made vaccine ahead of everyone else.

The act is unlawful on multiple levels. First, the importation, distribution and use of the Chinese-made vaccine has not yet received approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Hence, it is considered an illegal drug as far as Philippine laws are concerned. Second, neither the Office of the President nor the Bureau of Customs can explain (or refuse to disclose) how the vaccine entered the country. It’s been said that the vaccines were smuggled. Third, under the government’s vaccine prioritization plan, health care workers must be the first to receive the vaccine. They are followed by senior citizens and indigents. The fact that the PSG and certain military and Cabinet members received the vaccine ahead of everyone else means they defied the priority scheme formulated by vaccine czar General Carlito Galvez Jr. himself.

Malacañang was caught breaking the law and our moral code and this caused public outrage. It triggered the Senate, Congress, the Armed Forces, the NBI and the Bureau of Customs to each launch their own investigation.

Malacañang quickly washed its hand off of the matter, saying that the PSG acted on its own. Later on, the President justified the early vaccination of the PSG by saying his security detail must be protected against the virus to effectively carry out their duties.

Wanting to end the issue before it escalated to a politically damaging scandal, the President threatened Congress of a “crisis” should the PSG be summoned to the House for an explanation. He further ordered the PSG to shut up and not answer questions should they be interrogated. And if Congress cites them for contempt, the President said he will personally go to Congress to get them – but not before causing a “crisis.”

Following these remarks, the Armed Forces immediately called off its investigation, to the great disappointment of many. Not only does it show that the people’s defenders easily bend to political pressure, it also suggests that they prioritize political interest over due process. I expected more from DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, a man I admire.

At a press briefing last week, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the discussion on the illegal vaccination should “stop.” In response, Congress, the Senate, the NBI and the Bureau of Customs have either called-off their respective investigations or rendered them benign. Allies of the administration have closed ranks to insulate the President from political blowback.

The issue will be dead within a week or two. Malacañang will make sure of it. But it will not negate the great disappointment that festers among our people. Like I said, the incident speaks volumes about the values of our leaders.

It tells us that Malacañang puts its own needs before that of the Filipino people, including those who need it most, like our health care workers.  Although self preservation is a natural human instinct, the law is very clear as to who should receive the vaccine first. Healthy soldiers and state workers are only fourth on the list. The fact that they were allowed to jump the line reeks of entitlement. To hell with fair social prioritization. In this leadership, family, friends and allies come first. The absence of decency or even a bit of shame is a disappointment.

It tells us that our leaders exempt themselves from the law when it does not serve their purpose. The illegal importation and use of the Chinese-made vaccine is proof of this. Mind you, this is not the first time the Palace absolved a crime of one of its own. Still fresh in our memories were how Sen. Koko Pimentel was readily pardoned for breaking quarantine protocols and how PhilHealth CEO and suspected plunderer, (ret) Brig. Gen. Ricardo Morales, was given a graceful exit despite being unable to account for P15 billion in public funds. Friends and allies get away with crime but enemies are made to face the full brunt of the law. The selective enforcement of the law compounds our disappointment.

It tells us that Malacañang is willing to use anyone to protect its interest, even its loyal PSG. We all know that these dedicated soldiers could not have imported the vaccines on their own, given their meager salaries.

It tells us that legal due process and the tenets of transparency are dispensable if it goes against Malacañang’s agenda. If not, orders would not have been given to the PSG to shut up if subjected to a congressional inquiry. It also tells us that the President is willing to create a “crisis” if he does not get his way, never mind if it destabilizes the country.

Our greatest disappointment, however, was when the President said, “they (the PSG) have every right to live and to invoke self-preservation. In criminal law, that is the right to self defense.” If we are to follow this train of thought, we might as well remove all controls and declare every man for himself. A banana republic we shall be.

The personal sense of urgency among the President’s men no longer exists since they are now safe from the virus. As for the rest of us,there is still no telling if, when and how we can get vaccinated. Government’s vaccine procurement strategy remains vague even up to this day. Let’s hope that the ordinary Filipino does not get left behind in the vaccine appropriation and that it comes sooner than later.

Email: andrew_rs6@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @aj_masigan

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with