The Armed Forces of the Philippines has called off its investigation on the Presidential Security Group’s use of an unregistered COVID-19 vaccine, after President Duterte ordered the PSG not to bare information about its use.
AFP chief of staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay called-off the scheduled fact-finding investigation today on the vaccination of some PSG personnel, AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said.
"This comes in light of the recent pronouncement of the Commander-in-Chief and Pres Rodrigo Duterte," he said.
The importation and use of unlicensed vaccines are against Philippine law.
Before the announcement, Arevalo said the Armed Forces investigation would be an "exercise in futility" after the President ordered members of the Presidential Security Group to withhold information about the smuggled COVID-19 vaccines they received last year.
"What we can say is kung nagsalita na ang Pangulo na hindi niya papayagan na ma-summon ang mga miyembro ng PSG and for them to invoke the Constitutional right to remain silent, it may be an exercise in futility kung 'di rin sila papayagan na mag-appear sa ating summons at hindi rin sila sasagot sa mga itatanong," he said in an interview on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
The President on Monday told lawmakers not to force the PSG to talk about the vaccines and ordered his security to "just shut up."
"Ginawa ito nila, as I understand, para sa kapakanan ng buhay nila. (They did it to save their lives.) So if they will be called, they'll be called to testify in Congress, as a lawyer, I will just tell them, because they are now being accused and with the accompanying statement of prosecution and things like that, if that is the case, then I will ask the PSG to just shut up. Do not answer. Invoke the right against self-incrimination," he said.
"Wala kayong makukuha. (You will not get anything.) Do not force my soldiers to testify against their will. 'Wag ninyong i-contempt contempt, i-detain ninyo. (Do not cite them in contempt or detain them.) I don't think it will be good for you and for me. I don't think it will be healthy for everybody."
Duterte also said he may not allow the members of the PSG to testify in Congress.
"If they ask you questions, sabihin ko talaga sa kanila, do not answer. And maybe even I will not allow them to appear in Congress. Makakanood tayo dito ng, not really a crisis, but there will be a nasty thing that will transpire," he said.
(If they ask you questions, I will tell them, do not answer. And maybe even I will not allow them to appear in Congress. We will see something like, not really a crisis, but there will be a nasty thing that will transpire.)
Citing national security, PSG commander Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III admitted last week that members of the president's security group have already been inoculated.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año also said some soldiers and PSG members were inoculated with the vaccine candidate of Chinese drugmaker Sinopharm, adding they were among the first to get the vaccine because they are frontliners. With Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News