Roque wants Filipinos to 'stop' discussion on illegal vaccines for PSG

Franco Luna ( - January 4, 2021 - 1:10pm

MANILA, Philippines — As it has said about other controversial issues, Malacañang thinks that the smuggled coronavirus vaccines taken by members of President Rodrigo Duterte's security detail ahead of other listed beneficiaries are a closed issue that Filipinos should simply move on from. 

The vaccines that were taken, however, did not receive the required approval by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration before they can be rolled out, and the Palace had said earlier that frontline health workers would come first in the list of priority beneficiaries for COVID-19 vaccination.

Uniformed personnel like the  military, whose personnel compose the Presidential Security Group, were listed as the fifth priority in the government plan to vaccinate Filipinos against COVID-19 at the time.

But in the same breath that he defended them, Roque said at a Palace press briefing Monday that the presidential security personnel would be open to a probe by government agencies. 

"Well, I think the message of the PSG is that they are ready to die for the security of the president. Their mission is to protect the President of the Republic of the Philippines and his immediate family. So they made the decision, even if it was without authorization, to get vaccinated. In other words, because they were ready to die for him, they decided to get inoculated in order to lessen the chances of the president transmitting the virus," Roque said in Filipino. 

READ: VP: Sinopharm mess strains efforts for public to trust vaccines 

"The message is clear: they would die for the president's safety and to give him protection. And the Filipino people and our president show respect to them for their loyalty to their mission of protecting the president. We aren't hiding anything, VP Leni Robredo," he also said, addressing the vice president who earlier called for transparency in probes on the issue, casting fear that it would only hurt efforts for the public to trust the supposed COVID-19 vaccines.   

Roque once again leaned on the same familiar narrative it has brought up in instances of controversy: that legitimate concerns being raised against the administration's shortcomings are supposedly just a trumped-up narrative being exploited by the administration's political opposition.     

"Let us stop this discussion because our conversations at this moment should now be focused on the vaccines, when they're coming, and how we'll be able to spread it among our countrymen. Let's stop the politics. We already know that this issue that is being used by the enemies of the government is not going to end. The president pays tribute to the PSG, and they risked their lives for him," he said.    

"Our PSG are not scared of any punishment they might receive. They're willing to die for the president, why would they care about a penalty?" he added, urging Filipinos, many of whom were also bypassed in the priority for vaccination, to instead be thankful for the "sacrifice" of the PSG.

READ: 'VIP vaccination' bypassed health workers, mocks regulatory process — groups

Whether the vaccination was meant to protect the president or not completely misses the point, as healthcare collectives have said that "24 million health workers and patients were bypassed, and especially leapfrogged by those not even listed yet were able to receive it illegally."

“Even if these vaccines were somehow donated to these government officials, ethics and FDA policies should have prevented this affront to our institutional integrity,” the Coalition for People’s Right to Health said.

“By condoning the illegal vaccination, not only was the health of the vaccinated put at risk, but the entire vaccination effort itself has been undermined by vested interests. Once again, the people’s health is sacrificed for the convenience and privilege of a few,” it added.



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