MANILA — No provision under the new COVID-19 vaccination law punishes skipping the priority list for vaccination, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said late Thursday night, amid numerous reports of politicians and other personalities getting vaccinated ahead of health care workers.
“There are no penal provisions found in the new vaccination law,” Guevarra said in a message to reporters, referring to Republic Act No. 11525 or the “COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021,” which President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law on February 6, 2021.
The law authorizes the Department of Health and the National Task Force Against COVID-19 to purchase vaccines through negotiated procurement instead of bidding and allows local government units and private entities to procure vaccines but only through a multiparty agreement with the DOH.
The only penal provision in the law refers to falsification of vaccine cards made punishable under the Revised Penal Code.
However, Guevarra said there could be possible liability for government officials.
“For government officials, though, the Code of Ethical Conduct provides penalties for certain acts or omissions, such as for misconduct, abuse of authority, or conduct prejudicial to the interest of the service,” he said.
Earlier, Guevarra said there is “possible administrative liability if they are government officials who are not in the priority list.”
Meanwhile, Guevarra disclosed that based on initial findings of the National Bureau of Investigation, smuggled COVID-19 vaccines may have reached the country through "convenient packages."
“One thing I noted in the initial NBI report: no findings that the early COVID vaccines went through the Customs area. They might have been brought in convenient packages,” he said.
Asked what “convenient packages” mean, Guevarra said: “In a luggage, carry-on bag, etc. Maybe through a private flight, too. But the NBI has not specified these.”
As of March 23, more than 508,000 frontline health workers have received the first dose of COVID-19 jabs.