Philippine President Lauds Guards’ Courage in Using Unauthorized Vaccine: Spokesman

Duterte
FILE PHOTO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during the change of command ceremony of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines April 18, 2018. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao

MANILA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has commended his security detail for their “loyalty and courage” in inoculating themselves with unauthorized COVID-19 vaccines, his spokesman said on Monday, as some lawmakers called their actions illegal.

The military detail broke no laws when they administered the COVID-19 vaccines to themselves, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said, even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve any coronavirus vaccines. 

“The president is saluting the PSG for what they did. They risked their lives to protect our president,” he told a media briefing, referring to the Presidential Security Group. 

“We thank you for your loyalty and courage,” he said, quoting Duterte’s remarks. 

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last week called the PSG’s move “justified” even as he said the vaccines they gave themselves as far back as September, without his knowledge, had been smuggled into the Philippines.

The FDA has said any importation, distribution and sale of a COVID-19 vaccine is at present illegal and warned of potential dangers from using vaccines it has not approved. 

It has said it was working with the Bureau of Customs to determine how the vaccines were brought into the country.

Some senators are demanding answers and want the head of Duterte’s guard to appear before an inquiry on the government’s vaccination plan set for next week.

Senator Richard Gordon has said PSG chief Brigadier General Jesus Durante should consider resigning for violating the law. 

Durante last week said a handful of unit members used the vaccine “in good faith” because they could not afford to wait for regulatory approval, adding the president was only informed afterwards.

Durante did not name the vaccine used or say how it was obtained. 

Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty; Reuters

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