Palace: Donated COVID-19 vaccines for PSG a mere token; no anti-graft law violation
MANILA, Philippines — There was no violation of the anti-graft law when members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) got inoculated with donated COVID-19 vaccines as these were only “tokens” without “much value,” Malacañang said Tuesday.
“Ako po’y abogado. Hindi po ‘yan absolute. ‘Yung mga tokens po pinapayagan naman lalo na kung panahon ng Pasko,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in an online briefing when asked if there was any violation of the anti-graft law in accepting the COVID-19 vaccines.
(I am a lawyer. That’s not absolute. Tokens are allowed especially during Christmastime.)
“Puwede pong tumanggap ng tokens ‘yung mga wala masyadong halaga, ibig-sabihin…I don’t think it’s of much value anyway. Yung mga little value sa mga special occasion. I’m not arguing, ‘yun lang po ang nakasaad sa batas. But it’s not absolute,” he added.
(Tokens can be received, those without much value. I don’t think it’s of much value anyway. Those with little value for special occasions. I’m not arguing, but that’s what’s in the law. But it’s not absolute.)
Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, prohibits public officers from “directly or indirectly requesting or receiving any gift, present, share, percentage, or benefit, for himself or for any other person, in connection with any contract or transaction between the government and any other party.”
But Section 14 states: “Unsolicited gifts or presents of small or insignificant value offered or given as a mere ordinary token of gratitude or friendship according to local customs or usage, shall be excepted from the provisions of this Act.”
No public funds were used in the COVID-19 vaccines administered on PSG personnel, Roque said while noting that he does not know where it came from.
“Wala pong ginastos na pera galing sa kaban ng bayan dito kaya wala pong nalabag na prayoridad na ating sinabi sa publiko. Ang prayoridad po natin ay nananatiling kapareho pa rin, mga mahihirap, mga matatanda, frontliners both health and otherwise,” he said.
(No public funds were used here that’s why the prioritization was not violated. Our priorities remain – indigent citizens, senior citizens, frontliners both health and otherwise.)
No less President Rodrigo Duterte himself bared that some military personnel already received the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinopharm.
PSG Commander Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III defended the move to vaccinate the presidential guards, saying it was to ensure that they themselves were not a threat to the President’s health and safety.
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