EXERCISE IN FUTILITY: A Philippine military investigation into the illegal vaccination of President Duterte's close-in security team is "useless" if they refuse summons or even answer questions, its spokesman said Tuesday.
President Rodrigo Duterte, in his weekly address, ordered members of the Presidential Security Group to withhold information about the smuggled COVID-19 vaccines they received last year.
Major Gen. Edgard Arevalo, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the investigation which was scheduled to begin Tuesday may be an "exercise in futility" after Duterte's orders.
"Kung ang investigation ay mag-i-include ng summons pero kung 'di naman sila dadalo at kung dadalo man sila ay they will invoke the Constitutional right to remain silent ay parang wala ring silbi 'yung investigation," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
(If the investigation includes summons but the PSG will not attend or if they will attend but they will invoke the Constitutional right to remain silent, the investigation will be useless.)
"But again, I will have to speak to the (AFP) chief of staff for his final guidance but as it is the President and the commander-in-chief has spoken."
The President 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 (Do not cite them in contempt or detain them.)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."
Vice President Leni Robredo earlier urged the administration to be transparent as she sought an investigation into the PSG's inoculation against the coronavirus.
The "rule of law was observed" in the PSG's vaccination, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo insisted as he said the inoculation was the group's "own initiative" and was not government sponsored nor sanctioned.