MANILA — Malacañang said on Wednesday it had "no opinion whatsoever" on columnist and special envoy to China Mon Tulfo's use of a smuggled COVID-19 vaccine, saying wanting protection from the disease was understandable.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said he was not sure whether or not Tulfo's 6-month term as President Rodrigo Duterte's special envoy to China had been extended.
"I don't understand the big deal about the Mon Tulfo writeup. That's an account of Mon Tulfo. If you want verification, contact Mon Tulfo because I cannot answer on his behalf," Roque told reporters in a televised briefing.
Tulfo said a senator, some Cabinet officials, and some members of Duterte's security team had taken smuggled COVID-19 shots from Chinese state firm Sinopharm.
"Wala po akong reaksyon d'yan dahil sa panahon ng pandemya, naintindihan ko po na talagang maraming gusto talagang magkaroon ng proteksyon," Roque said, when asked if Tulfo and the Presidential Security Group's use of unauthorized jabs sets a dangerous precedent.
"Pero ang sinasabi natin sa lahat, hintayin po natin na dumaan sa proseso for our own interest," he added.
(I have no reaction there because during a pandemic, I understand that many want to have protection. But what we are saying to everyone is wait to go through the process for our own interest.)
Asked if there was conflict of interest in Tulfo's post and his desire to be a local distributor for Sinopharm, Roque said, "We have no opinion whatsoever. We leave that to the Ombudsman."
Roque said he could not confirm Tulfo's claim that he had the President talk to a representative of Sinopharm and that Duterte was willing to ask for samples of its vaccine.
"Hindi po ako tagapagsalita ng aking kaibigan na si Mon Tulfo so lahat po ng question n'yo kay Mon Tulfo, paki-direct po kay Mon Tulfo. I can only speak for the President," said Roque.
(I am not a spokesman for my friend Mon Tulfo, so please direct all your questions to him.)
The Philippines has yet to get its first batch of COVID-19 shots, with which it hopes to inoculate up to 70 million people or two-thirds of the population this year.