Progressive lawmakers filed Tuesday (Jan. 5) a resolution seeking an immediate inquiry on the COVID-19 vaccination of President Duterte’s Presidential Security Group (PSG) personnel using unauthorized and unregistered vaccines, describing it as a “blatant violation of multiple laws.”
ACT Teachers partylist Rep. France Castro led the filing of House Resolution No. 1451 urging the House Committee on Health, chaired by Quezon 4th District Rep. Angelina Tan and the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, chaired by DIWA partylist Rep. Michael Edgar Aglipay to conduct an “urgent” inquiry into the matter.
“The VIP vaccination of PSG is, therefore, a blatant violation of multiple laws and the oath to public office to uphold and defend the Constitution and to obey the laws, which includes uniformed personnel, binds the PSG and the Office of the President to uphold the laws against unregistered drugs, smuggling, and prioritizing personal interest above their own,” the resolution read.
"Their oaths of office likewise binds them to accord the highest fealty and service to the Constitution, our laws, and the Filipino people—not to a specific person such as the President,” it adds.
Joining Castro in filing the resolution were Bayan Muna partylist Reps. Carlos Ssagani Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite, and Eufemia Cullamat, Gabriela Women’s partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas and Kabataan partylist Rep. Sarah Jane Elago.
The Makabayan lawmakers reminded that based on the vaccination plan and priority as released by Department of Health (DOH), the military and uniformed personnel ranks fifth among the priority recipients.
According to them, the topmost priority recipients are the frontline health workers, employees of select government offices, indigent senior citizens, remaining senior citizens and indigents.
“The funds used for the illegal procurement and administration of the unauthorized and unregistered vaccines came from the government coffers and from the taxpayers,” they said.
“The people thus demand for the administration’s complete transparency regarding the VIP vaccination: Who were the officials and employees vaccinated? How did the unregistered vaccines enter the country? What vaccination products were administered? Who were the officials responsible for the procurement, smuggling, and administration of the illegal vaccines?,” they asked.
They noted that no less than President Duterte himself bared that selected Presidential Security Group (PSG) had a clandestine and VIP vaccination of unauthorized and unregistered vaccines from Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm.
They expressed serious concern over the pronouncement of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that the Sinopharm drug lacks the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and that the vaccines were smuggled.
The Makabayan bloc took note that the clandestine vaccination reportedly happened as early as September 2020.
“The said VIP vaccination follows in the footsteps of the administration’s failure on mass testing which resulted to VIP testing of select politicians and public officials and the wealthy,” it said.
The progressive lawmakers said several laws may have been violated. These include Republic Act 9711 or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Act of 2009 which prohibits the manufacture, importation, exportation, sale, distribution, transfer and non-consumer use of unregistered
products; and Customs Modernization and Tariff Act which prohibits, prevents, and suppresses the smuggling and other frauds.
"The same goes for a ‘donation’ of the unauthorized vaccine, which did not pass through proper government channels, can be a violation of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,” they said.
"Also, possible violations of the Medical Practice Act of 1959 which holds liable any individuals who knowingly or willfully administer an unregistered medicine or vaccine,” they added.
The lawmakers lament that "there is a brewing corruption in the procurement of vaccines, a chance for kickbacks from the pharmaceutical companies; public officials act as agents and favors different vaccine manufacturers.”
They noted that the Duterte government approved P75 billion for vaccine procurement in the General Appropriations Act of 2021, of which P70 Billion is under unprogrammed appropriations which they said, can evolve as ‘vaccine pork’.
"Even as mass vaccination and the procurement of safe and effective vaccines for it are still up in the air, here comes select officials and their irresponsible and brazen display of ‘panlalamang’ at the expense of the taxpayers and the people,” the Makabayan lawmakers said.
“Much like what happened with the VIP COVID testing, the VIP vaccination exposes the lack of a clear, fair, and sound plan on mass vaccination in particular, and on the control and management of the pandemic in general.”