‘Don’t get distracted’: Filipinos reminded of smuggled vaccines, Tarlac killings, other issues amid Dacera case

January 8, 2021 - 4:40 PM
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Composite photo shows an illustration of COVID-19 vaccine, profile picture of deceased Christine Dacera and candles it on the spot where mother and son Sonya and Frank Anthony Gregorio were shot and killed by an off-duty police officer. (Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo; Christine Dacera/Facebook; (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

The updates on unresolved smuggled COVID-19 vaccine controversy and other national concerns were remembered online following the media buzz around the controversial death of Christine Dacera.

Dacera was found unconscious at a bath tub in a hotel room in Makati City on New Year’s Day, on January 1 after a night of revelry to usher in 2021.

Police reports and the autopsy report later stated she died due to ruptured aortic aneurysm.

Amid medical findings and the release of three suspects due to lack of evidence, the Dacera family and Philippine National Police Chief Major General Debold Sinas insisted that the flight attendant was supposedly raped by her companions during the party.

These developments came at around the same time when President Rodrigo Duterte admitted that members of the Presidential Security Group were inoculated with the Chinese-made vaccine Sinopharm despite it not being registered in the Philippines.

Sinopharm earlier claimed it is 79.3% effective at protecting people from COVID-19 which is lower than the 86% rate for the same vaccine announced by the United Arab Emirates on Dec. 9, based on preliminary data from trials there.

READ: Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine 79% effective, seeks approval in China

The Department of National Defense and the Food and Drug Administration later acknowledged that the vaccines were smuggled and unregistered.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, meanwhile, defended the unauthorized vaccination of PSG and said that the vaccines were “tokens” for the soldiers during the holidays.

“Iyong mga tokens po pinapayagan naman lalo na kung panahon ng Pasko. Puwede pong tokens,” Roque said in a briefing on December 29.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines was supposed to conduct its investigation on the matter.

However, AFP terminated it after the chief executive himself ordered the PSG to stay mum about their use of unregistered vaccines.

“Durante, do not obey the summons. I am ordering you to stay put in the barracks. Medyo klaro naman siguro ‘yan?” Duterte told PSG chief Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III in a televised national address.

Last Monday, civic leader Teresita Ang-See revealed that some 100,000 Chinese workers from the Philippine offshore gaming firms have also received immunization from unauthorized vaccines.

Ang-See detailed that this started as early as November in 2019. One of these workers, however, still got infected after vaccination.

Roque said that the vaccination is POGO workers could be good.

“Wala po akong impormasyon. Kung totoo man, eh ‘di mabuti. [So] 100,000 less possible carriers of the COVID-19,” he said Monday.

The FDA has not yet approved the distribution of any COVID-19 vaccine yet, even the ones developed by Chinese companies.

Other issues

In light of the Dacera case dominating conversations online for nearly a week, some Filipinos reminded one another on the more pressing concerns of possible illegal vaccines being administered to Duterte’s close allies.

They also cited the P15 billion worth of alleged stolen funds by executives of the state insurer and the recent Nuezca case, which also made headlines locally and overseas.

Last December 21, Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca was caught in a viral footage killing two unarmed civilians 52-year-old Sonya Gregorio and her son, Frank Anthony Gregorio, 25, due to an altercation over firecrackers.

Nuezca immediately surrendered at the Rosales Municipal Police Station. He was also charged with double murder and is currently detained.

READ: ‘How many were not filmed?’: Calls to end police brutality renewed after cop killed mother and son in Tarlac

Months earlier, last August, PhilHealth’s executives were accused of pocketing billions from the agency.

This led to the resignation of Richardo Morales, who was among the executives tagged in the corruption allegations.

Duterte replaced Morales with Dante Gierran, former director of the National Bureau of Investigation.

One Twitter user speculated that politicians might be using Dacera’s death to campaign for the upcoming 2022 elections.

“The Christine Dacera case has been turned into a media spectacle to once again distract the nation about the missing vaccine, illegal PSG vaccinations, and PNP killings. Politicians are using this case for early campaigning,” the user wrote.

A Reddit user echoed this view, saying that the police might have seen this incident as an opportunity to distract the public from other important concerns.

Christine Dacera’s case is all over the social media. It’s a complicated case and she deserves justice but there are more important concerns. Sorry. The police saw this great story a distraction. Saan na ang 15 billion? Hustisya para sa mag-inang Gregorio. ACAB. from Philippines

A Facebook user questioned why the PNP is hyping this controversy too much.

“Kaninong narrative ba ‘yong rape-slay, eh wala pa palang autopsy. Masyado yatang pinapa-ugong ito ng PNP para matabunan ang ibang isyu tulad ng siyam na Tumandok IP na pinaslang at sampung inaresto sa Panay Island. Sila ‘yong mga nagpoprotesta laban sa pagtatayo ng dam sa ancestral lands nila at na-red tag,” the user said.

The PNP was criticized for declaring the case of Dacera “solved” despite not having released medical findings yet.