In a constitutionally supported effort to seek and share the truth about the controversial China-made Covid-19 vaccine, the President of the Philippines is quoted to have said, meant and even threatened, that knowing the truth is “bad for you,” and “bad for the country.”
For the record, here is the background: An untested, unapproved, unregistered, unauthorized but smuggled Covid-19 vaccine has reached and entered the Philippines. The vaccine is from China, branded Sinopharm. It is not registered with and not recognized by internationally accepted authorization protocols, principally those instituted by the World Health Organization. The vaccine is of inferior efficacy compared to Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, the three leading vaccines. Furthermore, Sinopharm costing roughly $145.00 for the required dual doze, is roughly 4 times more expensive than Pfizer. Also, the US is reported to have signed a $1.2-billion purchase agreement with AstraZeneca, estimating the vaccine to cost only $4.00 per dose.
Earlier, President Duterte has been openly touting the China-made vaccine as his choice for use in the Philippines’ fight against the raging coronavirus, despite advice aired by responsible professional and civic quarters concerned with medical efficacy, fiscal prudence and logistical advantage. These are elements not possessed by the China-made vaccine.
Incidentally, Duterte’s Chinese ‘padrinos’ have just prevented World Health Organization scientists from entering China, cutting off investigative efforts “to study the origins of the novel coronavirus” in Wuhan.
The Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Health, the Bureau of Customs did not know anything about it. In fact, inoculation has already been administered over three months ago to an expectedly most able-bodied and healthy segment of the population. Those benefited earliest belong to the elite Presidential Security Group (PSG), a special branch of the Armed Forces. Yet the Secretary of National Defense as well as the Army Chief of Staff claimed not knowing about it! Heck! Even the supposed Philippine distributor of the Sinopharm vaccine also disavowed any knowledge of the vaccine’s entry and use in the country.
Now, there is a general clamor from the concerned public to know the whole truth, exactly the what, the why and the how of this, yet another emerging, sordidness. Unravelling the mystery is reasonably of genuine public concern. After all, an expense of people’s tax money is involved while the entire gamut of transaction is patently violative of existing laws. Sinopharm is mired in a cover-up.
A Congressional investigation spearheaded by the Senate is therefore called for and in the offing. But guess who is hopping mad, preventing an honest ‘look see’ into the matter, preventing the rightful exercise of legislative oversight, obstructing ‘check And balance?’ Mr. Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the duly elected President of the Republic, himself!
Duterte threatens a “crisis” if Congress compels “his security detail to divulge details about their use of an unregistered Covid-19 vaccine. He is quoted thus: “I might just decide to not allow them—to ignore your summons. So you choose. It’s bad for you, sorry, I don’t care. It is bad for the country, maybe.”
Caught with its pants down, the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines also vowed to undertake an investigation “on the inoculation of some members of the Presidential Security with a coronavirus vaccine, which is yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.” Even the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has also vowed to probe “into the alleged unauthorized vaccination of the President Duterte’s security detail with unregistered COVID-19 vaccine.
But all these, before the President’s eruption of capricious fury! Already, the Senate President, Tito Sotto, has his lapdog tail quivering between his legs! He is exhibiting signs of folding. Both the Department of National Defense as well as the Armed Forces of the Philippines have stilled their earlier acquiescence with public clamor for the truth.
It remains uncertain if the people’s constitutional right to know will continue to be clouded with serial deception. Our President has refused to obey the law on “Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth’ (SALN). What about the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) findings? Currently, this Sinopharma episode simply lengthens the litany of undisclosed public interest happenings in the President’s office. Remember the September 2017 killing of Maj. Halim Gonzaga right inside Malacanang premises?
That Duterte has awarded his personal security detail, the PSG, with the secret inoculation of the Covid-19 vaccine is a reflection of his evident skewed values and priorities. In no other country the world over have able-bodied soldiers been so favored.
The universally accepted vaccination norm and practice is for medical front liners and healthcare personnel to be of primal concern, first tier, Phase 1-A. They are followed by adults with infirmities and disabilities, and residents of homecare facilities. Next, “essential workers,” then come those 75 years and above, 65 to 74; 16 to 64 all in descending phases of priority.
According to the US “Center for Disease Control,” ‘essential workers’ include all educational staff, including daycare workers, food and agricultural workers, manufacturing workers, U.S. postal service employees, public transit workers and grocery store workers.’
Able-bodied soldiers and police do not appear specifically mentioned in the countries I have reviewed. It goes without need of emphasis that superior health and able-bodiedness are indispensable physical attributes for men and women in uniform. The reasonable presumption is that the State keeps them healthy to be the least likely succumbing to infection! Did the President tacitly admit that his soldiers are not?
For the record, the advent of Covid-19 in the country reinforces my regard for the President of the Philippines to be continuously perfidious with his constitutional obligations and perverse in his human values and priorities. Should you not?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.
In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.
During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.
After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.
He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.