DILG vows 'full force of law' vs those behind alleged sale of COVID-19 vaccination slots

Aleta Nieva Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 22 2021 09:30 AM | Updated as of May 22 2021 02:29 PM

MANILA - The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Saturday vowed to enforce the full force of the law against individuals found to be behind the reported sale of COVID-19 vaccination slots in the cities of Mandaluyong and San Juan.

“We assure the public anyone found to be responsible—kung totoo ngang mga reports na ito—will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya.

The DILG has asked the Philippine National Police (PNP) to investigate the incident reported to their office on Friday afternoon.

“Patong-patong na kaso ang pwede nating isampa sa kanila. Unang-unang, kung totoong may ganitong modus operandi, na hindi ito scam, definitely theft ito ng mga bakuna ng ating pamahalaan," Malaya said. 

"Madami rin tayong pwedeng ikaso with relation to fraud. Ito po ay pinag-aaralan na ng Philippine National Police, iniimbestigahan na nila and we will file appropriate charges based on the result of the investigation,” he said. 

(We can file several cases against them. First of all, if this modus operandi is really true and not just a scam, definitely, this is a case of theft of government vaccines. We could also file several charges in relation to fraud. These are now being studied and investigated by the PNP and we will file appropriate charges based on the result of the investigation.)

A concerned citizen in Mandaluyong City had reported receiving messages from a college friend supposedly offering COVID-19 vaccine slots for 12,000 to P15,000.

Mandaluyong City Mayor Menchie Abalos denied that such scheme is happening in the city. Abalos also urged residents who may encounter such schemes to immediately report to their office. 

“Libre ang ating bakuna. Kahit na slot lang ang ibebenta nila hindi rin sila makakalusot, manloloko lang mga 'yan. Please, 'wag silang maniwala, tutok lang sa atin pong mga social media announcements,” Abalos said.

(The vaccines are free. Even if they only sell slots, they will not succeed, that is a fraud. Please, don’t believe them, just wait for announcements on our social media.)

Abalos said the city is implementing strict measures in its vaccination program and that residents must first pre-register through the MandaVax platform to secure a slot.

“Hndi sila makakakuha ng slot kapag hindi ka natawagan o wala ka sa line list. Screening pa lang, doon pa lang makikita na kung wala ka sa listahan, talagang pinauuwi. Hindi ka talaga babakunahan kasi doon pa lang mahigpit na. Pagdating mo pa sa screening siyempre may mga list yan,” she said.

(They will not get a slot if they don’t get a call or if they are not on the list. At the screening stage, those not on the list are sent home. They will not be vaccinated.)

She added that if the resident with the reserved slot fails to appear, then the substitute is not just anyone, but must also come from the same A1 to A3 category (health workers, senior citizens and those with comorbidities).

“Ang ganda ng aming rollout sa vaccination tapos darating 'yung ganitong balita na merong magbebenta ng slot. Kawawa 'yung naloloko nila,” she said.

(Our vaccination rollout is running smoothly and now comes this report that someone is selling slots. Pity on those who are getting duped.)

Video courtesy of PTV​

Meanwhile, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said it was working with government officials and the DILG in investigating the matter. 

"Tayo ay nakipag-ugnayan sa local government officials at the same time ang DOH at DILG gumagawa na ng imbestigasyon. So hintayin po natin na makakuha tayo ng resulta sa investigation. But definitely kung may makita tayo, nakita natin 'yung taong gumagawa nito we will penalize based on the sanctions in existing laws," Vergeire said in a public press briefing Saturday. 

(We are coordinating with local government officials at the same time and DOH and the DILG will conduct investigations. So we will have to wait for results of the investigation. But definitely, if we find the perpetrators, we will penalize based on the sanctions in existing laws.) 

On Friday, San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora said they were aware of the scam but clarified that the San Juan Vaccination Team is not part of it.

“This is a scam to defraud people of money for something that the government is offering for free to its citizens,” he said in a statement.

Zamora said San Juan also has an online system where qualified citizens can register for vaccination. 

Zamora also vowed to take action against the individual “claiming to have access to our vaccination program for a fee.”

Watch more on iWantTFC