Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has rejected calls for a Senate inquiry into the revelation that the Filipino soldiers guarding him had previously been inoculated with an unauthorized vaccine against the coronavirus smuggled from China.
Duterte ordered the Presidential Security Group (PSG) soldiers late Monday night to “disobey the summons” and “stay in the barracks,” saying he would not allow them “for all their good. intention, to be brutalized ”before a Senate probe.
Following the president’s statement, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which have jurisdiction over PSG, announced Tuesday morning that they were halting their own investigation into the criminal liability of the soldiers involved.
The president’s latest statement came amid new revelations that in addition to the Philippine military, at least 100,000 Chinese working in online gambling operations in the capital, Manila, also received the illegal vaccine from China as early as November.
Regulators in the Philippines have yet to approve any of Beijing’s COVID-19 vaccines, although Chinese labs have already started moving forward with vaccine trials at home and in several other countries.
Beijing has given conditional approval to one of the vaccines Sinopharm tested on December 31 and is rolling it out as part of a mass vaccination campaign.
‘Gift’ from China
Previously, Brigadier General Jesus Durante, Duterte’s security chief, was forced to admit that several soldiers injected themselves with an unnamed vaccine from China as early as September, citing their obligation to secure the president, while at the same time ignoring Philippine regulatory laws.
The general also said that Duterte was not made aware of their decision until later, although the president himself was the first to publicly reveal that his security service had already received a Chinese vaccine.
Durante, the general, did not disclose how the doses were obtained, although the president’s office said the vaccine was offered as a “gift” from China, despite the ban on transport and shipping. of unauthorized drugs.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted the drugs had been smuggled into the country without his knowledge, but added that PSG’s decision was “justified”.
Duterte said on Monday he was “ready to stand up for my soldiers,” while praising their “loyalty and courage” amid the wave of criticism over what legal observers and health experts have called a blatant violation of Philippine laws.
Duterte spokesman Harry Roque also insisted the soldiers did not break any laws when they “risked their lives to protect our president”.
“The president salutes PSG for what they have done,” Roque said, declining to answer repeated questions if the covert vaccination process was illegal.
Meanwhile, Roque dismissed reports that at least 100,000 Chinese working in the Philippines were also injected with the unauthorized vaccine from China.
“I have no information. But if this is true, then so much the better, because there will be 100,000 fewer COVID-19 carriers ”in the country, Roque said.
Philippine-Chinese community leader Teresita Ang-See said Monday the vaccine used on Chinese workers was the same one used on Filipino soldiers and went through an “official route.”
“The vaccines given to them were from legitimate and legitimate sources, they were from the official channel, so I think that’s good,” Ang-See said quoted by reporting.
“Why keep it a secret that way, especially if it’s an official channel?” We brought it to the attention of the authorities because, for me, it is normal that they are vaccinated, because we do not have much control with them.
Ang-See, however, did not acknowledge that no coronavirus vaccine had been approved by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration.
According to Filipino labor statistics, an estimated 140,000 Chinese nationals were permitted to work in the country in 2019. Beijing said it launched a program to immunize citizens working abroad in the middle of last year.