‘Child of celebrity’ and mayors who got Covid vaccinations to be probed

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President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday directed the Department of Health (DOH) to conduct an inquiry into the supposedly unauthorized inoculation of a “child of a celebrity.”

Duterte also said some local executives have already been ordered to explain their alleged move to jump the priority line for Covid-19 vaccination.

In a pre-recorded speech delivered Wednesday night, Duterte refused to divulge the identity of the person who received the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine jab despite not being on the government’s priority list.

Duterte, however, hinted that the incident happened in Parañaque.

Dismayed by the report that a “favored” person jumped the queue to get the Covid-19 vaccine shot, Duterte advised Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd to elevate the case to the Office of the Ombudsman.

“It’s now up to you. I do not want to name anyone. It happened in Parañaque. So, it is a child of a celebrity. Investigate and let your legal office handle the [case] or make the report out of the incident and bring it to the Ombudsman,” he said in Filipino.

Duterte’s statement came after the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) confirmed that actor Mark Anthony Fernandez got vaccinated against Covid-19 despite not being a medical front-liner.

Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez, however, defended Fernandez’ inoculation, saying the actor is eligible to be prioritized for Covid-19 vaccination because he has “comorbidities.”

Olivarez also explained that the local government had already finished vaccinating all the healthcare workers, making Fernandez qualified to be given priority for vaccination against the coronavirus.

Duterte also wants action on mayors who got Covid-19 vaccination.

He was referring to Mayors Alfred Romualdez (Tacloban City, Leyte), Dibu Tuan (T’boli, South Cotabato), Sulpicio Villalobos (Sto Niño, South Cotabato), Noel Rosal (Legazpi, Albay), and Abraham Ibba (Bataraza, Palawan) who were issued show-cause orders for jumping the queue to get their coronavirus vaccine shots.

Duterte added that apart from the five local officials, Mayors Elanito Peña (Minglanilla, Cebu), Victoriano Torres III (Alicia, Bohol), Virgilio Mendez (San Miguel, Bohol), and Arturo Piollo II (Lila, Bohol) also received Covid-19 vaccine jabs ahead of other prioritized groups.

He admitted that there was a “grey area” in the inoculation of the local chief executives.

“For me, there’s a grey area there, hence, identifying people who should be given priority, whether or not they jumped the Covid-19 line of vaccination, would require a certain amount of legal study. So that’s it. They were issued show-cause orders because instead of following, seeing to it the list is followed religiously, they already got vaccinated,” Duterte said.

Duterte made the admission, as he acknowledged the “universal excuse” of the local officials that they decided to get inoculated to boost public confidence in Covid-19 vaccines.

“Ang rason nila, I think it’s the universal excuse na para hindi matakot ‘yung mga constituent (Their reason, I think it’s the universal excuse to allay fears of their constituents),” he said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced Monday that local officials have been reclassified as “essential workers” and are now fourth in line to receive the Covid-19 vaccines.

Roque said official local government units (LGUs) are now part of the “A4” priority with other front-line personnel in essential sectors, including uniformed personnel.

There are currently 1,634 provincial governors and city and municipal mayors and 42,046 village chairpersons all throughout the country.

Duterte warned that the Philippines might lose Covid-19 vaccines that it is expected to receive through the World Health Organization (WHO)-led Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility.

“Dapat sundin natin kasi sinabi sa atin ng country representative ng WHO, ‘If you do not follow the list of priority, you might lose the assistance of the WHO.’ ‘Yun ang pagkasabi (We have to follow [the priority list] because the WHO country representative had told us, ‘If you do not follow the list of priority, you might lose the assistance of the WHO.’ That’s what we were told),” he said.

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