MANILA: The Philippines military will investigate the inoculation of soldiers from President Rodrigo Duterte’s security team with coronavirus vaccines smuggled into the country, an armed forces spokesman confirmed.
News of the special unit being vaccinated has caused anger among the public as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any COVID-19 vaccine for use in the country.
The armed forces chief, Gen. Gilbert Gapay, has denied having any prior knowledge of the vaccination.
“Gen. Gapay has ordered a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident,” Marine Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, the military spokesman, said late on Thursday.
Duterte revealed in a televised meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases earlier this week that some soldiers had already received vaccine doses developed by China’s Sinopharm.
After the president’s revelation, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted that the vaccines were “smuggled.”
“Yes, smuggled, because it’s not authorized to enter here. Only the government can authorize that through the FDA,” Lorenzana said on Wednesday.
He said that the actions of the presidential guards was “justified.”
Presidential Security Group (PSG) commander Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante said that the security guards had “independently” inoculated themselves to reduce the risk of infecting Duterte.
He added that the matter was kept secret even from Lorenzana.
However, the PSG has come under fire from experts and lawmakers questioning the vaccine’s safety and legality.
The Department of Justice, Bureau of Customs, and the FDA are set to investigate how the vaccine entered the country.
Under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, any new drug “should have authorization from the FDA based on an application containing the full reports of investigations.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Thursday said that the PSG commander should appear before a Senate committee looking into the rollout of coronavirus vaccines in the country.
“The most important ‘who’ and ‘how’ of the story remain a mystery. The PSG commander is deliberately ignoring the basic questions of who and how from the public,” Drilon said.
“Who else was involved? How did unregistered COVID-19 vaccines enter the country? Who imported it from China?” he asked.