Reckless statements behind jab panic: If that ‘somebody’ is Duterte
MANILA, Philippines—Manila Mayor Isko Moreno said on social media and interviews that “somebody’s” statements triggered the panic that sent thousands of people, including those not from Manila, to vaccination sites in the city, triggering chaos.
But it couldn’t be just anybody. If the “somebody” happened to be the President of the republic, then the panic’s root cause must run deep.
Thousands of Filipinos flocked vaccination sites in several parts of Metro Manila on Thursday (Aug. 5) in the middle of curfew hours.
Some of the people said they panicked when they heard rumors about “no vaccine, no ayuda (cash aid)”, fearing they would miss out on the distribution of aid during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila from Aug. 6 to 20.
Others said they rushed to vaccine sites after hearing that some employers would impose a “no jab, no work” policy.
Moreno said he believed that “somebody’s” reckless statements and threats led to the panic.
He did not identify who that somebody was.
But prior to Moreno’s statement, President Rodrigo Duterte’s threats against the unvaccinated, on the premise that people refuse to get injected, were believed to have added fuel to the fire.
Malacañang dismissed it as baloney.
“I don’t think so. I think some no-good people are spreading fake news,” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
“I don’t know why they haven’t got COVID-19 yet but anyway don’t believe in fake news,” he added.
But Duterte did not issue the statements in a vacuum, or in private. He uttered the threats in public and, unfortunately for Roque, these had been recorded.
Amid continuous vaccine hesitancy among Filipinos despite the alarming increase in cases of coronavirus infections, Duterte advised people who refused to get vaccines to just stay at home.
“We cannot force you but then sana kung ayaw niyo magpabakuna, wag na kayo lumabas ng bahay para hindi na kayo maghawa ng ibang tao,” Duterte said in a taped speech.
(We cannot force you but if you don’t want to be vaccinated, don’t go out of your houses so that you will not infect other people.)
In his “Talk to the People” last June 14, Duterte expressed his dismay over vaccine deniers despite the government’s efforts to “do everything” including buying millions of vaccine doses.
“[K]ayong itong…in face of the reality of death and the number ng namamatay, ayaw pa ninyong magpabakuna,” the President said.
(In the face of reality and death, and with the number of fatalities, you still do not want to get vaccinated.)
“Ginawa na namin ang lahat. Sabi nga ‘pag nabili ‘yong lahat ng bakuna, sobra kasi maraming tumatanggi. Hay nako.,” he added.
(We already did everything. We bought the vaccines but there is a surplus because some are refusing to get them.)
As of that date, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded 6,426 new cases which brought the number of total active cases to 59,096.
Overall, the country had 1,322,053 cases of COVID-19, 1,240,112 have already recovered while 22,845 died.
In his public address aired on June 22, Duterte again called the attention of those who refuse to get vaccinated by threatening them with possible jail time.
“They are hard-headed. Don’t get me wrong. There is a crisis being faced in this country. There is a national emergency. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I will have you arrested. And I will inject the vaccine in your butt. [CURSES]. You are pests. We are already suffering and you’re adding to the burden,” Duterte said, speaking partly in Filipino.
“So all you Filipinos listening, watch out. Don’t force my hand into it… I have a strong arm for that. Nobody likes it. But if you won’t get vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India or somewhere — to America. But as long as you are here and you are a human being that can carry the virus, get yourself vaccinated,” he added.
He also threatened to ask the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to order barangay officials list down people refusing to get vaccinated.
The President also jokingly said that he would have them injected with ivermectin — the controversial anti-parasitic drug that some doctors claim could cure COVID-19.
“These are the stupid people who don’t like to be vaccinated. And they are really the carriers, you know. They can travel from one place to another and carrying the virus and contaminating other people. You people who don’t like to get vaccinated, I’ll have you injected with a vaccine for pigs— this ivermectin. That will really kill [the virus], including you,” he said.
Last week, in his pre-recorded public address, Duterte has ordered police and barangay captains to escort unvaccinated persons back to their residences if they leave their homes.
“Those who do not want to get vaccinated, I am telling you, do not go out of your houses. If you go out, I will tell the police to escort you back. You will be escorted back to your house because you are a walking spreader,” Duterte said partly in Filipino.
“It behooves upon really the barangay captains. It is really part of their job to go around to see who are vaccinated and who are not, and to give the appropriate warning that they should not be going around because they are throwing viruses left and right,” he added.
“If they refuse to get vaccinated, barangay captains should not allow them to leave their house. Just like that. We are defenseless,” the President ordered.
His statement came following reports of an increase in cases of the highly contagious Delta variant.
As of July 25, DOH detected 119 cases of Delta variant in the country.
Duterte also told those who refuse to get inoculated: “for all I care, you can die anytime.”
As usual, Duterte’s Cabinet came to the rescue, explaining the intentions behind Duterte’s statement.
The following day, Roque said Duterte’s statement was meant to ensure vaccinated people would work in case of a lockdown.
“Delta variant is here, it is tough to implement lockdown because we don’t want people to go hungry. The President’s idea is if we are going to impose a lockdown, those who are already vaccinated should be allowed to go out for work,” the presidential spokesperson said.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles likewise gave an explanation of the President’s order.
“As far as arresting those who won’t get vaccinated, we have no such policy,” he said, speaking partly in Filipino.
“When the President said that, I think he already explained that he said it in the context of, as it were, a sense of exasperation.”
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