MANILA - An official from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Wednesday expressed frustration over reports about local chief executives and a celebrity already being inoculated against COVID-19, supposedly breaching the government's vaccination plan amid the limited vaccine supply.
In an interview on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said his agency would launch an investigation and look into the possibility of filing charges against certain local officials.
"Nakakapikon, kasi sabi ng World Health Organization (WHO), kailangan protektahan natin muna ang mga health workers natin, mga frontliners. Tapos, biglang may sisingit na ganoon, ni wala nga sa priority list... tapos bigla mong pinasingit?" Densing said.
(It is irritating because the WHO said we have to protect our health workers, frontliners. But people still jump the queue. They are not even in the priority list, but they were allowed to jump the line.)
The DILG earlier in the day served show-cause orders to Mayor Alfred Romualdez of Tacloban City, Mayor Dibu Tuan of T'boli town in South Cotabato, Mayor Sulpicio Villalobos of Sto. Niño town in South Cotabato, Mayor Noel Rosal of Legazpi City in Albay, and Mayor Abraham Ibba of Bataraza town in Palawan, all of whom were already vaccinated from the virus despite not being in the priority list.
Densing also noted how Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez defended the inoculation of actor Mark Anthony Fernandez.
He said the WHO, through the vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX Facility, donated AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccines to the country in order to vaccinate the country's priority sector.
Should this specific set of donated vaccines be administered to people not included in the priority list, the country's allocation from the facility could be temporarily removed.
"Malinaw po na sinasabi ng WHO, ni Dr. [Rabindra] Abeyasinghe, na dapat gamitin po 'yan in accordance with the priority sectors. Dahil 'pag hindi natin ginawa 'yan at patuloy tayong hindi natin sinusunod itong priority sectors, baka tanggalin sa atin muna ang alokasyon ng Pilipinas at ililipat elsewhere," Densing said.
(It is clear that the WHO, through Dr. Abeyasinghe, is saying that the vaccines from the COVAX Facility should be used on the priority sectors. If we won't follow the priority sectors and we continue doing this, then our allocation can be removed temporarily and be given elsewhere.)
Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr., the Philippines' vaccine czar, earlier said that the Philippines will acquire a total of 44 million vaccine doses from the COVAX Facility as it aims to secure 161 million doses from different sources.
In a statement Tuesday, the health department reiterated that healthcare workers should be prioritized for the vaccine distribution due to limited supply as of the moment.
The agency also pointed out that the initial batch of doses must be given to healthcare workers "who most need and deserve it."
More than half a million COVID-19 doses have been given to Filipinos as of Tuesday, according to the Department of Health.