Vaccination probe: NBI counting on PSG chief’s cooperation | Inquirer News

Vaccination probe: NBI counting on PSG chief’s cooperation

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 05:32 AM January 03, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation will soon “reach out” to the head of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) to find out who provided the China-made Covid-19 vaccine that was administered to the presidential guards, and how it got into the country while still uncleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for local use.

NBI spokesperson Ferdinand Lavin said the agency would “appreciate it very much” if PSG commander Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III would put into writing and state under oath his earlier admission that he had requested the use of the vaccine for his men, and that they voluntarily submitted themselves to inoculation to avoid becoming a threat to President Rodrigo Duterte’s health.


Durante disclosed in a TV interview last week that the presidential guards received their first dose in September and the second in October, and that they vaccinated themselves without help from medical professionals. He did not say who provided the vaccines and how it was brought into the country.


The PSG commander also said it was his own decision to make the request and that he did not ask for permission from Duterte to have the presidential guards vaccinated.


It was the President who disclosed the PSG vaccinations during a televised meeting with health experts in Malacañang on Dec. 26. He identified the vaccine used as the one developed by Sinopharm.

According to the FDA, the vaccine has not been registered for local use and distribution.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque later said the Si­nopharm shots received by the PSG were donated—a “token” that had little value—but that he didn’t know who the donor was and what the circumstan­ces behind the donation were.


In a radio interview on Saturday, Lavin said “maybe [Durante] can submit an affidavit narrating the circumstances surrounding the incident, how it happened, where they got the vaccine, who have been vaccinated and who administered the vaccination.”

“We should examine every detail because that statement [he made in the media] is a sweeping statement, admitting that [the vaccination of the PSG members] was true and that they just did it on their own,” Lavin added. “We will reach out to Durante … If he cooperates [and] gives a statement, then we will take off from there.”

Lavin said the NBI was just awaiting a formal directive from Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who had warned that the use of the unregistered vaccine to inoculate the presidential guards may have violated several laws.

The bureau would also interview the presidential guards who had been inoculated and other persons, including private individuals, who may have facilitated the unlawful entry of the Sinopharm vaccine into the country, he added. “We will invite them (the PSG members) if they are properly identified.”


Not being singled out

“We will ask them where they got the vaccine and who administered the vaccination on them. Hopefully, they will identify those who administered the vaccine who are liable under the Medical Practice Act,” he said.

As Guevarra had pointed out, Lavin said the NBI would not single out the PSG in the investigation but would also look into reports that some politicians, businessmen and their families had also been vaccinated against the coronavirus, which had infected nearly 500,000 Filipinos.

The NBI, he added, would also seek the cooperation of the FDA and the Bureau of Customs, which is also conducting an investigation into how the Sinopharm vaccines got past border checks.

“There may have already been instances that vaccination took place [before the PSG members were inoculated],” Lavin said. “We will check all these reports.”

Lavin said the NBI would also seek guidance and assistance from the foreign affairs and justice departments should there be a need to invoke the country’s Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with China in the course of the investigation.

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
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TAGS: coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19 Vaccines, NBI, PSG vaccination, Rodrigo Duterte, unauthorized COVID-19 vaccines, VIP vaccination
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