PSG personnel got Covid-19 vaccine as ‘token’: Palace

MANILA – Malacañang said Tuesday the Covid-19 vaccines given to members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were inoculated to them as a “token”, assuring that no public funds were shelled out.

In a virtual presser, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the remark following criticism over PSG personnel being the first to receive a vaccine despite not being approved by local regulators.

Roque insisted that the PSG did not violate Republic Act 9711 or the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009 because the vaccines were given to them as a “token” during the Yuletide season.

“Ako po ay abogado. Hindi po iyan absolute. Iyong mga tokens po pinapayagan naman lalo na kung panahon ng Pasko. Puwede pong tokens (I am a lawyer. That’s not absolute. Tokens are allowed, especially if it’s Christmas. They can receive tokens),” he said.

Roque said he saw nothing wrong with the PSG accepting the vaccines as tokens because they were “not of much value.”

“I don’t think it’s of much value anyway,” he said.

Despite saying the vaccines were a donation, Roque did not elaborate which country or organization they were from.

“Well, it was not paid for. So, it is a donation, but that’s all that I know,” he said.

On Monday, Philippine Army Chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said the vaccination of some members of the military was authorized by Duterte.

However, Roque said he could not confirm Sobejana’s statement.

“They must be privy to that information, I am not!” he said.

PSG Chief Jesus Durante III defended the decision of PSG personnel to receive the vaccine, saying national security imposes the protection of the President as commander-in-chief from all forms of threat, especially Covid-19.

However, he said the PSG could not speak on the vaccine’s effectiveness.

No black market

Meanwhile, Roque shrugged off concerns over the possible emergence of a black market selling vaccines for the rich and powerful, which in turn, would deprive the poor and vulnerable sectors.

“Wala pong rich and powerful na nakakuha ng bakuna, PSG lamang. Ginagamit lang po ‘yan ng mga kalaban ng gobyerno para sabihin na yung mga rich and powerful na naman ang nauna (No rich and powerful people have obtained a vaccine, it’s just the PSG. Political enemies of the government are just using that to say the rich and powerful are getting it first),” he said.

Roque renewed his appeal to the public not to take offense at PSG personnel for being the first to receive the vaccine, adding that it was to ensure the health and safety of the President.

“Huwag na natin masamain ‘yan dahil ‘yan naman ay magre-resulta sa mabuting kalusugan ng Presidente. Kung meron kayong problema na ayaw niyong pangalagaan ang kalusugan ng Presidente (Let’s not take offense because we know that it would result in the President’s health and safety. If you have a problem and you disagree with keeping the President safe), we respect your opinion. As far as the PSG is concerned, and I fully support the decision of the PSG, they will do everything and anything to protect (the) health of the President,” he said.

Although Duterte himself said that PSG personnel received the vaccine from Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm, Roque said this does not mean that the company would be favored by the FDA when it comes to deciding who gets approval first.

“Lahat po iyan dadaan po sa proseso na ang sabi po ng FDA ay kinakailangan ipakita nila iyong (Emergency Use Authorization) nila sa ibang bansa. Lahat naman po iyan dadaan sa proseso, wala pong favoritism (It will all go through a process and the FDA said that they need to show their EUA to other countries. They will all go through a process. There won’t be any favoritism),” he said.

FDA Director General Eric Domingo said the only application for EUA it has received so far was for the Pfizer’s vaccine.

Domingo said the evaluation, which he hopes to be completed within two weeks, would focus on both the regulatory side for the quality of the vaccine and the clinical trial for its efficacy and safety. (PNA)

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