NBI probes COVID vaccine import

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) assured Saturday that no government officials will be spared from its investigation into the illegal importation and use of vaccines against COVID-19.

NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin made the assurance during a radio interview over DZBB following a verbal order from Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to conduct the probe.

“We’ll look at maraming possible violations from the Medical Practice Act to the tariff on the Customs Code of the Philippines, paano ito nakapasok (We’ll look at the many possible violations from the Medical Practice Act to the Customs Code),” he said.

Lavin added there could also be violations with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), rules of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

“Hindi lang naman government officials and employees (Not only government officials and employees will be made accountable) but also private individuals who may have cooperated with the government employees or officials,” the NBI spokesperson said.

Guevarra gave the directive for the NBI to conduct the investigation following the admission of Presidential Security Group (PSG) commander Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III that the PSG was able to get COVID-19 vaccines and have its personnel vaccinated to better protect President Duterte from getting infected with COVID-19.

If the importation and use of the vaccine is a government-to-government deal, Lavin said the NBI if there have been lapses made.

“Kung merong lapses (if there are lapses), we will look into that,” he said.

Lavin assured that the investigation that will be conducted will not be centered on the PSG alone.

“Hindi lang naka-focus doon o nakatuon doon. Kailangan tingnan din ‘yung iba (It can’t be just focused on that. Investigations will have to be done on other areas as well),” he said.

So far, the NBI spokesperson admitted that the only person of interest identified by the NBI is Durante regarding the issue of importation and use of the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Mag-umpisa tayo dito kay Gen. Durante at kung anong detalye ang ibibigay niya (We will start with Gen. Durante and what information he will give),” the NBI official said.

“And, simultaneous to that, we will reach out to FDA, Bureau of Customs,” he added.

Because of this, Lavin urged Durante to fully cooperate with the NBI in conducting the probe.

“The NBI would appreciate it very much if he can reduce it into writing under oath,” said Lavin who urged Durante to give as much details as he could.

In the meantime, Lavin said the NBI is awaiting the official order that Guevarra will issue before proceeding with the investigation.

“There are already agents on standby and within the next few days the director will be issuing the special order for this as soon as we receive the department order,” he said.