Malacañang is confident that the Presidential Security Group (PSG) personnel will be ready to face the consequences of receiving a coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine which has yet to get approval from local regulators.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that if close-in security personnel are willing to die to protect President Rodrigo Duterte, they are also willing to face possible consequences and even penalties for their actions.
“Kung sila’y handa mamatay para sa Presidente, handa sila kung ano ipapataw na parusa (If they’re ready to die for the President, they’re ready to face whatever penalties),” he said in a virtual presser on Monday.
Roque, a lawyer, said he does not see anything wrong with the PSG’s decision to get inoculated with the vaccine as it was necessary to ensure the President’s health and safety.
“Yes, I don’t think it was a mistake to protect the President. If there’s whatever accountabilities issue, sasagutin po ‘yan ng PSG. Gaya ng sinabi ko, e kung kamatayan nga tatanggapin nila ano naman yang mga ibang parusa na puwede ipataw sa kanila (the PSG will answer them. Like I said, if they are willing to face death, what is having to face penalties)? Let’s leave it at that. Kung may kaso (If there are cases), let the cases be filed and let them proceed,” he added.
He said Duterte would even want to honor PSG personnel who agreed to be given vaccine shots to prevent him from getting infected with the virus.
“Nagbibigay pugay po ang Presidente sa ginawa ng PSG. Sinugal po nila ang kanilang buhay para bigyan ng proteksyon at ating Presidente (The President is paying tribute to the actions of the PSG. They risked their lives to protect the President),” he said.
Roque said everyone, besides Duterte’s critics, would agree that the President should be protected from all forms of threat including Covid-19.
“Iisa lang naman po ang Presidente ng Pilipinas. Siguro naman walang Pilipino, well, siyempre may mga kalaban ang Presidente who are wishing otherwise, pero tingin ko naman po lahat ng natatakot sa Panginoon, hindi naman nagnanais na magkasakit ang ating Presidente (There’s only one President of the Philippines. Perhaps there’s no Filipino, of course the President has enemies who are wishing otherwise, but I think everyone who fears God would not wish the President ill),” he said.
Roque appealed to members of the opposition, including Vice President Leni Robredo, to stop playing politics and using the issue to show that the Duterte administration is seemingly covering up misdeeds.
“Haharap pa po sila sa mga imbestigasyon. Siyempre po, wala po tayong tinatago VP Leni Robredo. Kaya nga po nagkakaroon po ng mga imbestigasyon ngayon ang [National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice, and Food and Drug Administration]. (They will face investigations. Of course, they’re not hiding anything, VP Leni Robredo. That’s why there will be investigations at the NBI, DOJ, and FDA),” he said.
He also sought for mutual respect from the Senate which will convene as a committee of the whole to open its own investigation and summon PSG Commander, Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III, to explain how the vaccine doses were procured.
“Hindi ko po maintindihan kung bakit panghihimasukan ng Senado, ang co-equal branch of government, ang seguridad ng ating Presidente e gayung hindi naman pinaghihimasukan ng Presidente ang seguridad ng Senado. Siguro po (I don’t understand why the Senate is interfering with a co-equal branch of government, in matters concerning the security of the President when the President is not interfering with the security of the Senate. I hope there is), mutual respect for co-equal branches of government,” he said.
Roque also reiterated that no public funds were spent in the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines for PSG personnel. Last week, he said they were given to them as a “token”, but could not identify where the vaccines came from.
“Kung gusto po nila sabihin, sasabihin nila. Pero ng importante po, pinrotektahan ang Presidente (They’ll say where they got it from if they want to. But what’s important is they’re protecting the President),” he said.
He also insisted that the PSG’s actions did not violate Republic Act 9711 or the FDA Act of 2009 since there was no sale and distribution of vaccines that took place.
Several agencies including the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Bureau of Customs (BOC), NBI, and FDA earlier announced that they will conduct separate probes into the inoculation of PSG personnel with a Covid-19 vaccine not yet authorized by the FDA.
The PSG’s vaccination drew flak for allegedly violating the law and undermining more vulnerable sectors, particularly healthcare workers.