IT is unfortunate that the new year of 2021 is beginning with a vaccine controversy when our efforts should be concentrated on fighting the COVID-19 which continues to infect and kill people in our country.
That case of a COVID-19 vaccine being used by the Presidential Security Guards (PSG), along with some Cabinet members, refuses to die down, despite the explanations and assurances of the presidential spokesman and the presidential legal counsel that the PSG action was actually meritorious and deserving of praise.
After President Duterte appealed to Congress “not to tinker” with the PSG, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) decided Monday to cancel its inquiry into the actions of the PSG men, who are part of the AFP. The Senate will, however, go on with its inquiry on the entire vaccine situation in the country, including Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s charge that someone in the government “dropped the ball” in early talks with Pfizer, so that we won’t be having any vaccine until May, five months from now.
Senate President Vicente Sotto said that when the Senate Committee of the Whole meets, led by him as Senate president, it will focus on how the government is spending the P75.5 billion allocated in the 2021 national budget. He said he has no plans to call the PSG to the hearing.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is pursuing its own investigation focusing on possible violation of laws in the entry of the vaccines used by the PSG. After the issue came up last week, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had said the vaccines had been smuggled into the country.
The PSG has been defended by Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque and Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, as well as by Sen. Ronald de la Rosa. Roque said as far as Malacañang is concerned, the PSG did not commit anything wrong when its men had themselves inoculated in keeping with their duty to protect the President.
The COVID-19 threat remains in our country, with cases probably rising in the second week of January, as a result of the recent gatherings during the Christmas holidays. We hope the infections are within the limits projected, so there will be no need for new and stricter restrictions.