Gov't urged: Probe COVID-19 vaccination of POGO workers

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 05 2021 10:11 AM | Updated as of Jan 05 2021 10:19 AM

A man works in a laboratory of Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech, developing an experimental COVID-19 vaccine, during a government-organized media tour in Beijing, China, Sept. 24, 2020. Thomas Peter, Reuters/File

MANILA - A lawmaker is urging Philippine health authorities to investigate the unauthorized COVID-19 vaccination of some 100,000 Chinese workers of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) in the country.

Speaking to ANC, Sen. Risa Hontiveros urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Health (DOH) and Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) to ensure protocols for vaccine approval were followed.

"Tignan 'yong isang kababalaghan na nangyari na naman nitong bagong taon 'yong ulat na (They should look into this report, which came out over the New Year that) 100,000 POGO workers were vaccinated even though we have yet to have even one vaccine locally approved by the FDA," she said.

This, after prominent Chinese-Filipino civic leader Teresita Ang-See bared in an online forum that POGO workers had received COVID-19 shots since November.

The senator stressed that it was not the first time that foreign POGO workers were involved in such anomaly. Last year, a number of illegal COVID-19 treatment facilities catering to Chinese POGO workers were discovered and shut down, she said.

Hontiveros bemoaned that illegal inoculation had already taken place among those in the government, which include members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and a Cabinet member.

"We're supposed to follow the rule of law. No one is above it, kahit at lalo na kaming mga nagtatrabaho sa gobyerno (even and especially those working in the government.) We're supposed to be strict," she said.

"Napakaistrikto natin sa ordinaryong mamamayan na lumabag sa health protocol pero bakit kung matataas na opisyal o mga favored na dayuhan ay okay lang? We look the other way."

(We are very strict to ordinary citizens who violate health protocols but it's okay to government officials or favored foreigners...)

In a separate statement, Hontiveros said the government should identify and prosecute those behind the smuggled vaccines, "which threaten the effectivity of our health response to COVID-19."

"Filipinos deserve a government that does its job and implements the law equally and fairly. Tandaan natin, hindi lang ito isyu ng legalidad. Buhay ng mga kababayan natin ang nakataya dito," she said.

(...Let's remember, this is not only about the issue on legality. Lives are at stake here.)

For Malacañang, the early vaccination of Chinese POGO workers, if the report turned out to be true, will be good for the country.

"But if this is true, then good. There will be 100,000 less possible carriers of the coronavirus," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Monday.

Teresita Ang-See said the inoculation of Chinese workers was "unlawful," but that she agrees with Malacañang that it was "good" that they have protection against the virus.

"I agree with Sec. Harry Roque na buti nga protected sila kasi (that it's good they're protected because) we don’t have any control as far as they are concerned. Sabi ko nga mabuti na they are resourceful, ingat lang na hindi peke ang vaccines. It will create more harm," she said.

(I said it's good they are resourceful, they should just be careful that the vaccines aren't fake or it will create more harm.)

"My emphasis is it’s still unlawful that's why the government has to review, i-review ang polisiya ninyo (review its policies)."

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