MANILA - Officials attending the inauguration of a mega COVID-19 vaccination site in Valenzuela City on Thursday drew criticism from some viewers and netizens, who described portions of their remarks to be akin to political campaigning for the 2022 elections.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, in his speech, addressed Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go as “future Vice President” and resigned Public Works Secretary Mark Villar as “future senator”.
Go and Villar have formally filed their candidacies for the May 9, 2022 elections.
Vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. also read a “special dedication” enumerating Villar’s accomplishments as DPWH chief.
“Kahit na wala pang February, mangangampanya na po ako para kay future Senator Villar,” said Vince Dizon, Deputy Chief Implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19.
(Even if it's not yet February, I will already campaign for future Senator Villar.)
Go thanked his fellow officials for the compliment, but appealed to set aside politics for now. Yet, later in his speech, he praised Villar and called him “future classmate sa Senado (at the Senate).”
The exchange of acclamations did not sit well with some netizens.
“And this, my friends, ang tinatawag na pamumulitika. Tapos i-a-accuse n’yo ang mga critics na pinupulitika ang pandemya (And, this, my friends, is politicking. And you have the audacity to accuse critics of politicking the pandemic?),” one Twitter user said.
“Vaccination or campaign?” another netizen wrote.
“Using the vaccines to campaign for their bets. Acting like they bought the vaccines with their own money,” another said.
The campaign period for candidates for President, Vice President, senator, and party-list groups is set on Feb.8 - May 7, 2022.
Galvez denied the vaccination event was comparable to a campaign sortie.
“The genuine intention of this activity is to say that we need to do something like this in order to vaccinate most of our people here in NCR and other areas," he said.
Galvez said it will be the only time administration bets are invited to activities held by the national task force against COVID-19.
“We are really trying to preserve na ‘yung vaccination will become apolitical. Nakikita natin sa ngayon, in reality, vaccination is becoming a political weapon," he said.
Last April, Go, a longtime assistant of President Rodrigo Duterte, was criticized for attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony and photo opportunity session during the inauguration of a new health institute in Quezon City, at a time when the COVID-19 crisis in the country has gotten worse.
That same day, the Philippines reported a record-high 382 additional deaths due to COVID-19, as the country's cumulative total of coronavirus infections soared to 812,760.
The country ranked last in the latest Nikkei Asia's COVID-19 Recovery Index, which assessed the response efforts of 121 countries and territories against the prevailing health crisis.
The new rating came a week after the Philippines also fell to the bottom of Bloomberg’s COVID Resilience Ranking.
So far, 22.6 million individuals in the country have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 25.7 million have received their first dose as of Wednesday, according to government data.
More than 77 million are targeted for vaccination for the country to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19.