'For the benefit of everyone'
MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday stressed that those who brought in and administered unregistered vaccines will be held criminally liable.
In a message to reporters, Guevarra explained that the person who voluntarily gets inoculated with an unregistered vaccine may not be held liable under existing laws, unless he or she caused its unlawful procurement.
But he stressed that although vaccination is for personal survival, “it is important that laws on vaccine approval and administration be strictly observed for the benefit of everyone.”
This comes after Sen. Bato Dela Rosa said in a radio interview over the weekend that he is willing to receive a vaccine even if it is not approved by the FDA. Speaking in Filipino, he said: “My life is at stake. I have to decide for my own life.”
Guevarra however did not cite anyone specifically in making a comment on certain "officials" disregarding FDA rules on vaccination.
The DOJ chief also pointed out that under Section 11 of the FDA law, manufacture, importation, sale, offering for sale, distribution, transfer, promotion of any health product that is unregistered with the FDA is prohibited. A penalty of fine and/or imprisonment may be imposed on the violator.
The DOJ secretary meanwhile noted that those who knowingly or wilfully administer an unregistered vaccine may be held liable under the Medical Practice Act of 1959.
Guevarra also on Monday made public Department Order 314 directing the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the reported “importation, sale, offering for sale, distribution, administration and inoculation of COVID-19 vaccines that are not authorized by or registered with the Food and Drug Administration.”
The NBI is also ordered to file appropriate charges against all persons involved and found responsible for any unlawful act if evidence warrants.
The department order did not specifically cite a probe into the Presidential Security Group, but Guevarra had earlier said that the use of the PSG is covered by the investigation. NBI spokesperson Ferdinand Lavin said Monday they will reach out to the PSG within the day.
Lavin earlier said that they will also investigate officials who approved the vaccination. “If we have enough evidence, then definitely yes,” he said in an interview with ABS-CBN.
The NBI is just one of the government agencies looking into the PSG’s use of the unregistered vaccine, which officials claimed were donated. The FDA and the Armed Forces of the Philippines said they will also be looking into the incident.
But presidential spokesperson Harry Roque would rather have the issue of the use of unauthorized vaccines on the president’s security detail, bypassing health workers in the priority list, deemed closed.
In a virtual briefing, Roque continued to defend PSG’s move to vaccinate themselves against COVID-19, saying it only proves that they are “ready to die” to give Duterte protection.
Roque however said that the PSG is ready to cooperate in government investigation.
"Our PSG are not scared of any punishment they might receive. They're willing to die for the president, why would they care about a penalty?" he added, urging Filipinos, many of whom were also bypassed in the priority for vaccination, to instead be thankful for the "sacrifice" of the PSG. — Kristine Joy Patag with report from Franco Luna
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