AFP starts legal vaccination of troops

Published March 2, 2021, 5:31 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

Three months after PSG jab scandal:

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officially started the legal coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination of its personnel on Tuesday, March 2 — three months after it was rocked by a scandal that involved select members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) getting unregistered and possibly smuggled vaccines.

(Photo by Ishara S. KODIKARA / AFP / FILE PHOTO)

Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, AFP Chief of Staff, witnessed the vaccination rollout at the Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo Station Hospital in Quezon City where three of its hospital staff took the CoronaVac vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

They were Lt. Col. Jacquelyn Cloma, chief admin officer at the Office of the Chief Nurse; Maj. Francis Andrade, operations officer; and Maj. Richard Delgado, assistant chief nurse.

“I urge our troops to wholeheartedly support our government’s vaccination program. Let us collectively show our strong resolve of support and trust to this very decisive initiative,” Sobejana said as he rallied his troops to back the government’s inoculation efforts to defeat COVID-19.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who was also present during the vaccination rollout, stressed that the national government prioritizes the welfare of the medical frontliners — including in the military — that’s why they are the first recipients of the COVID-19 vaccines from China.

Lorenzana opted not to get the Sinovac jab due to its age restrictions.

Dubbed as “BIDA BAKUNATION,” the program seeks to vaccinate military personnel who are in the frontlines of the fight amid the pandemic.

Separate vaccination rollouts were held at Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City; Manila Naval Hospital in Fort Bonifacio; and Philippine Air Force General Hospital at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.  

“The target today is to vaccinate at least 30 medical health workers in each of the hospitals in the four camps,” said Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson.

At the Army General Hospital, the vaccinees were led by Army Chief Lt. Gen. Jose Faustino; Maj. Gen. Robert Dauz, vice commander; Maj. Gen. Rowen Tolentino, Army chief of staff; and Lt. Col. Teresita Merioles, Army General Hospital executive officer.

The Army aims to inoculate 5,000 personnel at their General Headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City in the next 15 days which will be simultaneously held with the nationwide rollout of the vaccine in 18 Army hospitals all over the country.

Meanwhile, Col. Puralyn Epres, commander of the Manila Naval Hospital, led the vaccination of Philippine Navy and Philippine Marine Corps personnel.

Lastly, Maj. Irene Mabutas led the vaccination of medical health workers from the Philippine Air Force.

The vaccination rollout in the major service branches of the AFP came three months after news broke out in December 2020 that some members of the PSG got vaccinated with an unregistered COVID-19 vaccine, reportedly Sinopharm from China.

The AFP leadership repeatedly branded the PSG’s vaccination as “heroic” since the soldiers supposedly took the risk and had themselves inoculated with a vaccine that was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just to protect President Duterte from all kinds of threats.

The FDA launched an investigation after the Bureau of Customs raised the possibility that the vaccines were smuggled into the country.

However, FDA Director Eric Domingo said on Monday that they were facing a blank wall in their investigation due to the lack of information on the vaccinees.