Duterte spokesman says law banning gifts for gov't workers is 'not absolute'
MANILA — The batch of unregistered, Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines that President Rodrigo Duterte's security group recently took is "a donation," Malacañang said on Tuesday, as it denied that this is illegal.
Members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) took the Sinopharm vaccine to protect Duterte's health, which is "a matter of national security," said his spokesman Harry Roque.
"Wala pong ginastos na pera galing sa kaban ng bayan dito," he said in an online press conference. "Kaya nga po iyan donasyon, wala po iyang kondisyones."
(No public funds were spent for this. That it is a donation, it has no attached conditions.)
Roque said was not aware of who gave the vaccines.
"It was not paid for so it is a donation, but that's all that I know," he said.
The law prohibits government workers from "directly or indirectly requesting or receiving any gift, present, share, percentage, or benefit, for himself or for any other person."
"Hindi po iyan absolute," Roque said of the law. "Iyong mga tokens, pinapayagan naman, lalo na kung panahon ng Pasko... iyong mga wala masyadong halaga."
(That is not absolute. Tokens are allowed, especially during Christmas, those with not much value.)
The Sinopharm vaccine could cost no more than 1,000 yuan (around P7,354) for 2 shots, according to a Reuters report.
It is not immediately clear how many shots of the vaccine went to an unidentified number of PSG members.