"What are these agencies waiting for?"
A regular listener of our daily morning radio program Karambola on DWIZ 882 AM asked what violations, if any, the PSG and other Cabinet members who were supposed to have been vaccinated commited. Smuggling? Unauthorized use of an unregistered medical product? Medical malpractice?Indeed, what law or laws have been violated in this affair?
He also asked, why provide air time and allocate space in the major dailies on this matter as if the violation were so gross that it required a high-level inquiry?
He wanted to know if the executive time and attention being dedicated to the give-and-take exchanges between Malacanang and some legislators and others are worth it at this time.
My co-hosts and I told him we would get back to him once we get more details about this brouhaha. He said this need not be the subject of a full-blown congressional inquiry.
We told him there is really a need to look into this affair. We cannot simply sweep this under the rug. After all, if PSG members and some Cabinet members have been vaccinated since September yet as admitted by PSG Commander BGeneral Jesus Durante III, the public would want to know what vaccine was used, who supplied it and what have been the effect so far on those vaccinated.
We cannot afford to have presidential close-in security personnel and senior officials unduly waylaid by this “secret” operation. Answering these questions would go a long way in reassuring the public that once and for all the government is holding the (vaccine) ball not dropping (or unreasonably dribbling) it to everybody’s consternation.
Like our listener, we would like to know what laws were violated. We would like to get to the bottom of this affair. If it is smuggling, let the Bureau of Customs (BOC) check it out. The agency has enough powers and personnel to look into the matter and bring the appropriate charges against the culprits. If it is the unauthorized use of an unregistered medical product and medical malpractice, let the FDA and the DoH take care of that. They have all the resources to check this out. If these agencies cannot handle this matter for whatever reason, they can always call on the NBI to help them do the work.
Indeed, if there were any violations at all, the culprits should be brought to court. Will any of the violations require any tweaking of existing laws or rules? I seriously doubt it. Now, If all that this operation amounted to was to make “guinea pigs” of certain people, that’s another story. That means they were injected with medically doubtful substances which may have been smuggled into the country and which may now be being sold on the sly. That would really be problematic.
But that does not seem to be the case if we are to believe Teresita Ang See, a Chinese Filipino civic leader and founder of the Kaisa Heritage Center. Ang See disclosed that the vaccines injected on the PSG members and some Cabinet officials came from the same source that was used on some 100,000 Chinese nationals mostly POGO workers who have actually been vaccinated since October.
“The vaccines given them were legitimately sourced.. and should not have been blown out of proportion if this was not kept secret because we all understand why it is needed,” Ang See said.
Said the known advocate of Chinese Filipino rights and welfare: “It’s OK that they (POGO workers) get vaccinated because we do not have much control with them. We do not have any basis to catch them. I am glad they are being vaccinated because it protects us also if they are protected. Of those vaccinated, only one tested positive for the virus..”
It appears from Ang See’s account that these vaccines were procured by the POGO operators for their own workers from official sources abroad having passed through the equivalent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) units in Singapore, Japan, Korea and China. In a word, these vaccines have passed regulatory muster only that our very own FDA and the IATF have yet to finalize the guidelines on their use and distribution which Ang See decried.
“It’s good that they are protected,” Ang See noted, adding that we should be glad that they are treating their own nationals since they have nowhere to go. Would it have made any difference if these nationals just brought their own vaccines before coming in and vaccinated themselves? She said it would at least prevent them from becoming spreaders.
Which is why she said it would have been better if the procurers and users brought their act to public attention if only to highlight the delay in the issuance of guidelines and approvals instead of doing things in secret. That way their effort to protect their business and their people would not have opened them to unwarranted demonization and even raids and other unnecessary interventions from all kinds of quarters.
Which brings us to the ultimate issue: what’s keeping the FDA, DoH and the IATF from coming out with the needed guidelines for the procurement, use and distribution of the vaccines? What are these agencies waiting for, since no less than President Duterte has been pushing them to work on the vaccines since the middle of last year? What preparations have been put in place at all levels to ensure that all those needed to be vaccinated are afforded the same in a proper, transparent and orderly manner thus avoiding any kind of operations done in secret?
In the meantime that the vaccine rollout is not yet in place, what alternative arrangements are being undertaken to ensure that we limit the number of infections and the rate of transmission? How about making an audit of the state of our health care system to give us enough confidence in our continuing effort to open up the economy and transit to the new normal?
Instead of haranguing the PSG and Malacañang about the misplaced operation they just did for which they should make a clean breast of, apologize and bravely suffer the consequences of their indiscretion, why not focus on the real issue? We should get the vaccines in and let the mass roll out begin.