‘Double standard’: DILG’s anti-VIP vaccination stance hit after spox took jab

March 25, 2021 - 3:47 PM
Jonathan Malaya
DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya gets vaccinated against COVID-19 through Sinovac on March 2, 2021. (Photo from Romel Lopez via News5 on Twitter)

(Updated 4:21 p.m.) Amid the reported VIP vaccination of some local officials, others cited the case of the spokesperson of the interior and local government department who also went ahead and got himself inoculated with COVID-19 vaccine.

Five local chief executives were issued a show cause order for jumping in the queue of the government’s priority list for COVID-19 vaccines even though they are supposed to be inoculated after healthcare workers, senior citizens and those with comorbidities.

Four other mayors were also reported to have received the jab as well.

READ: Provincial execs cutting in vaccination line brings back VIP testing controversy online

President Rodrigo Duterte in his national address aired Wednesday night expressed his dismay over the so-called VIP vaccination and reiterated the condition of the World Health Organization to countries receiving doses via the COVAX facility.

The Philippines received its AstraZeneca doses from the initiative which aims for all countries to have fair and equitable access to COVID-19 jabs, especially low and middle-income ones.

A WHO representative previously said that the country might risk losing its doses from COVAX if it fails to follow the priority requirements for vaccination, which puts healthcare workers on the first line.

Palace said that local officials fall under the “A4 sector” which pertains to frontline personnel in essential sectors, including uniformed personnel and those in working sectors identified by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases as essential during ECQ.

The Philippines is still inoculating the A1 sector which are the healthcare workers who are in the frontlines of the battle against the pandemic.

Following the controversy of some local officials’ vaccinations, others criticized the Department of Interior and Local Government and said that it should also police its own backyard, citing that its undersecretary Jonathan Malaya also got inoculated with COVID-19 vaccine early March.

DILG is the agency responsible for capacitating and nurturing local government units and improving its performance to be able to effectively deliver public services to their respective constituents.

“DILG? The same agency whose undersecretary (Jonathan Malaya) violated the same protocol or unauthorized officials who also jumped ahead of the queue,” a Twitter user said in response to the reports.

“DILG, thru Jonathan Malaya, ang unang sumuway sa prioritization ‘framework’ ng gobyerno. ‘Wag na kayo magtaka kung bakit may mga mayor na sumisingit sa pila. Kung may mapaparusan, dapat ito ang una,” another online user said, quote tweeting pictures of the official.

Malaya was inoculated with China’s Sinovac at the Pasay General Hospital on March 2. Reports said he was the first to receive the shot in the hospital.

He said that he got inoculated to increase the public’s confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Kailangan ng mga government officials magpabakuna para tumaas pa ang vaccine confidence. Nakakatuwa kasi patuloy na tumataas ang vaccine confidence sa public dahil sa nangyayari na ito,” Malaya previously said.

The Palace defended him and said that he received the jab “in good faith” after he was prompted by the hospital staff to get vaccinated.

“The two naman, in good faith, thought that they were doing the nation a service by having themselves vaccinated kasi nga mataas pa ‘yung tinatawag nating distrust sa bakuna,” Malacañang, referring to Malaya and MMDA chief of staff Michael Salalima who also got vaccinated that time, said.

“So, upon being prodded and being offered and guided by their desire to increase public confidence in the vaccine, nagpabakuna po sila,” the Palace’s spokesperson added.

The spokesperson also said that Malaya claimed he was not aware of the government vaccine panel expert’s decision to reject the proposal of public officials and “influencers” being among the priority for COVID-19 jabs.

“Hindi po tayo perfect sa pagpapatupad nitong protocol. Nagkaroon tayo ng kakaunting breaches pero we have learned from them and now everyone knows medical frontliners muna,” the Palace said.

The issue was similarly raised on Thursday but DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing reiterated that Malaya’s vaccination was done “in good faith.”

He added that the undersecretary’s vaccination was already investigated and that the latter have responded.

The Department of Health and the National Task Force Against COVID-19 jointly reiterated the call to strictly follow the approved prioritization framework of the National COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment Plan.

It stressed that all currently available doses are allocated for, and should first be given to the medical frontliners/healthcare workers who have the highest exposure to COVID-19 and are most at risk of contracting the disease since the supply is limited.

“Recent reports of non-HCWs being inoculated have already been referred to the DILG. We once again emphasize that due to the limited number of vaccines, we should reserve these doses for our healthcare workers on whom we rely to maintain our most critical health services,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.