Duterte orders probe on vaccination queue skippers

Published March 25, 2021, 12:24 AM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

President Duterte ordered the Department of Health (DOH) to investigate the people who jumped the vaccination line and received the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine ahead of their turn.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila  on March 24, 2021. KING RODRIGUEZ/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Duterte made the statement after it was reported that five mayors and an actor were already inoculated while the government is yet to complete vaccinating 1.7 million healthcare workers.

In his public address on Wednesday evening, the President told Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to probe those who skipped the queue.

“Kayo na ang bahala mag-imbestiga nito (I’ll leave the investigation to you),” he told Duque.

“Make a report out of that incident and idiretso mo na lang sa (send it straight to the) Ombudsman,” he added.

Duterte, in particular, named the following local chief executives as among those who jumped the line and received the vaccine:
* Mayor Alfred Romualdez of Tacloban City, Leyte
* Mayor Dibu Tuan of T’boli, South Cotabato
* Mayor Sulpicio Villalobos of Sto. Niño, South Cotabato
* Mayor Noel Rosal of Legazpi City, Albay
* Mayor Abraham Ibba of Bataraza, Palawan
The President refused to name the “child of a celebrity” who got vaccinated early. However, it was reported that actor Mark Anthony Fernandez, the son of actress Alma Moreno and the late actor Rudy Fernandez, received the AstraZeneca jab in Parañaque City.

In his remarks, Duterte acknowledged that the mayors may have decided to get vaccinated to boost the confidence of their constituents. However, he said that this was something that needed legal study.

“I think that is universal excuse na para hindi matakot ‘yong mga constituents. Well, ako, medyo gray area ‘yan (that they did that to encourage their constituents. But for me, that’s a bit of a gray area),” he said.

“Whether or not if they jumped the COVID-19 line of vaccination would require a certain amount of a legal study,” he added.

According to the President, it was important that the Philippines strictly follow the vaccination priority list to ensure the continued support of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Sinabi na sa atin ng (We were warned by the) country representative of the WHO: ‘If you do not follow the list of priority, you might lose the assistance of the WHO,’ It was made clear to us,” he said.

The Philippines received 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines from the WHO-led COVAX Facility. WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe has asked the Philippine government to properly roll out the said vaccines so as not to jeopardize future deliveries.

Healthcare workers are the top priority of the government’s vaccine program that started on March 1.