MANILA (UPDATE) – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed Monday that members of the Presidential Security (PSG) were administered a vaccine against COVID-19, hours after security officials admitted some soldiers have been inoculated.
"Per our inquiry, members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were the first ones from the AFP who were vaccinated owing to the nature of their mission and function,' AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a statement.
Earlier in the day, Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana told a radio station he knew of some soldiers who have received the vaccine. This was also confirmed by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año in an interview on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
Arevalo, initially reacting to the two's statements, said the AFP leadership is not aware of such inoculation, and that it was not sanctioned by them.
His latest statement, however, proved that immunization of some soldiers took place.
Arevalo justified the move, citing the PSG's mandate.
"As the unit primarily tasked to protect and secure the highest official of the land, the PSG will have to ensure that the President is safe from all threats—including COVID-19," he said.
"Because the safety of the President equates to national well-being, that security posture should necessarily include protecting the Commander-in-Chief from contracting the deadly virus from those he is constantly exposed to like the members of his security detail," he added.
But Arevalo said he is not privy to the arrangement of the PSG's inoculation.
In a separate interview on TeleRadyo, Arevalo explained that the AFP is not required to be informed about all operations of the PSG.
"Ang totoo niyan, hindi naman po lahat, especially po, ang operation ng Presidential Security (Group) is by nature, talaga pong sikreto 'yan. Hindi po lahat nakakaalam, maging sa Armed Forces of the Philippines, lalo na maging movement ng ating presidente, pati po 'yung kaniyang mga activities. Ganoon din po 'yung kaniyang kalagayan, lalong lalo na po kung ang mga kautusan, for that matter, hindi kailangang malaman po ng Armed Forces of the Philippines," he said.
(The truth is, not all [are disclosed to us], especially the operations of the Presidential Security [Group] is by nature a secret. Not everyone knows about their operations, even the Armed Forces of the Philippines, especially when it is about the movement of the President, as well as his activities. The same goes for his condition, and even his orders, for that matter, the Armed Forces of the Philippines doesn't have to know.)
"So, much as the PSG is an integral part of the AFP, the very nature of its mission and function and its assignment ay nagdidikta, ano, na hindi lahat ng operations ng PSG ay kailangang malaman o humingi ng clearance o go signal from the AFP leadership. Unique po 'yan sa PSG. Not all units are having that kind of leeway on their part as a unit," he added.
(So, much as the PSG is an integral part of the AFP, the very nature of its mission and function and its assignment dictates that the PSG does not need to ask for clearance or go signal from the AFP leadership. That is unique to the PSG. Not all units are having that kind of leeway on their part as a unit.)
Arevalo's explanation is in reaction to the earlier confusion about reports that some soldiers have already been inoculated against COVID-19 vaccine.
The Department of Health (DOH) earlier warned that all vaccines should undergo the evaluation and regulatory process of local regulatory and expert bodies before it can be approved for rollout.