MANILA (UPDATE) — Civilians like actor Mark Anthony Fernandez who are not part of the government's COVID-19 vaccination priority list but have received shots have no legal liabilities as of this time, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said on Thursday.
Instead, liability will fall on authorities who let unauthorized people jump the vaccination line, said Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III.
"'Yong mga sumingit, kagaya po ni Mark Anthony Fernandez nga kahapon... as of this time, wala po kaming nakikitang potential liability. Mukhang makakalusot siya kung wala kaming makikitang liability," Densing said, quoting DILG's legal experts.
(Those who cut the line like Mark Anthony Fernandez yesterday, as of this time, we don't see any potential liability. They could get off the hook because we don't see any liability.)
"Hindi po natin nakikita iyong liability ng isang nakasingit. Pero baka magkaroon ng liability iyong nagpasingit at iyong nagpahayag na siya'y bakunahan kahit hindi (o) labas po siya sa priority list," he said in a televised public briefing.
(We don't see the liability if those who jumped the line. But those who let him skip the line and said they could be vaccinated may face liability.)
However, Densing appealed to the public not to take advantage of this, saying, "Makonsensya na lamang po kayo na marami sa ating kababayan, laging exposed sa COVID-19, itong mga healthcare workers."
"Ang isang bakuna na ipinagkait natin sa healthcare workers ay isang bakuna na ipinaGkait natin sa kalusugan ng mga taong lumalaban para sa taongbayan," he added.
(Have conscience because many of our compatriots are always exposed to COVID-19, our healthcare workers. A vaccine that we denied our healthcare workers is a vaccine we denied to those who are fighting for the people.)
While officials who get COVID-19 shots ahead of priority groups are liable under the Code of Ethics, a new law might be needed for civilian vaccination line-jumpers, said Palace spokesman Harry Roque, a lawyer.
"Para sa ibang tao, kinakailangan talaga nating magpasa ng batas kasi mayroon tayong prinsipiyo na... kinakailangan ng batas na nagsasabi na ang isang bagay ay kriminal, bago ka puwedeng magpataw ng parusa," he said in a press briefing.
(We really need to pass a law because there is a principle that there must first be a law saying that something is criminal before sanctions can be imposed.)
Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez had said Fernandez was eligible for vaccination as he has depression and hypertension. Fernandez, in an interview with an entertainment news site, said he was not taking any maintenance medicine, just multivitamins and Vitamin C.
The actor told ABS-CBN News no violation is made because he is on the second priority list, and "some people on the first (list) didn't show up.”
“My BP (blood pressure) was 180/130, so must na ma-shot-an ako (so it’s a must that I get a shot),” he said.
Parañaque City Health Officer Dr. Olga Virtucio confirmed this to ABS-CBN News.
“Siya ay na-screen ng doctors, at isa siya sa mayroong tinatawag natin na comorbid. ‘Yung bata ay hypertensive siya for a year. Mayroon din siyang episodes ng depression,” she explained.
(He was screened by doctors and is included among those that we call comorbid. He has been hypertensive for a year and he has episodes of depression.)
“Wala po kaming sinuway na patakaran doon. Pumasa po ‘yon si Mark Anthony sa category A,” she added.
(We did not violate against any protocol with what we did. Mark Anthony passed to be included in category A.)
Officials have said limited COVID-19 jabs must be reserved for medical frontliners.
The Philippines has received delivery of 1,525,600 COVID-19 shots, so far, which are not enough for the country's 1.7 million health workers.
Next in line to health workers in the priority list are the elderly, people with comorbidities, frontline workers, and indigents.
President Rodrigo Duterte has spoken on the matter in a public address Wednesday night, ordering relevant agencies to take action.
Densing said the DILG would ask Olivarez to explain Fernandez's vaccination. The agency also sent show cause orders to 5 other mayors to explain why they should not be sanctioned for getting vaccinated.
- with report from Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News