MANILA — Malacañang said on Thursday "there should be no questions anymore" on the unauthorized use of allegedly smuggled COVID-19 shots by President Rodrigo Duterte's security men.
The Food and Drug Administration said on Wednesday the Presidential Security Group has yet to reply to an inquiry on their unauthorized use last year of COVID-19 shots from Chinese state firm Sinopharm.
“As far as the PSG is concerned, the President has been clear. There should be no questions anymore about the PSG because the PSG acted out of self-defense and necessity,” said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
The drug regulator revealed the PSG had yet to respond to the inquiry after columnist Mon Tulfo said he, some "Cabinet-level" officials, a senator, and some members of Duterte's security team took smuggled vaccines.
Tulfo is no longer Duterte's special envoy to China, said Roque.
“He’s a private citizen so he can do as he please. And the President is not in position to compel him to do anything. The President does not have subpeona powers,” he said.
Asked if Malacañang finds the illicit vaccinations alarming and if Duterte would compel those involved to cooperate with probes, his spokesman said, “The President is a president, not a policeman, not an NBI agent.”
“We leave that to the police and to the NBI,” Roque added.
Earlier this February, the FDA allowed Duterte's security team to import and use 10,000 Sinopharm shots.
“Nasa priority naman po ang ating kasundaluhan. At matagal na po nating napag-usapan ‘yan na seguridad at kalusugan ng Presidente ang pinangangalagaan,” Roque had said.
(Soldiers are on the priority list and we have previously discussed that they are taking care of the security and health of the President.)
The Philippines is set to get its first shipment of authorized COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday, courtesy of China's donation of 600,000 doses from Beijing-based pharmaceutical group Sinovac.
With the second highest COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, the Philippines has lagged behind its regional neighbors in securing COVID-19 shots with which its hopes to inoculate 70 million people or two-thirds of its population this year.