“There is no timetable, no breakdown, no listing of the hierarchy of sectors that would be given the much-anticipated doses.”

There is much furor these days about vaccine doses that have supposedly been given to members of the Presidential Security Group, those men in perpetual close contact with President Duterte. Reports have it that they received the vaccine as early as September. Some privileged Cabinet members—and who knows who else in government—are also feeling more secure these days for having been inoculated, ahead of everybody else, against the dreaded virus.

Certainly, there is appalling irregularity, opaqueness and entitlement that went with obtaining and administering the vaccines. Filipinos had been looking on with envy at countries which had procured doses by the millions and had started their rollout programs. We had been wishing that we were similarly resource-rich so that we could provide the same relief to our people. We were angry when we learned that the lack of urgency of some of our health officials was responsible for a missed opportunity to receive an initial batch of Pfizer vaccines—that shipment eventually went to Singapore.

Imagine thus our surprise when it was revealed that some chosen ones have been given the life-saving doses. The lack of forthrightness and the inconsistency of the officials concerned told us that these hush-hush transactions were something to be ashamed about.

They bristled at the possibility of being investigated. The “guinea pigs” were glorified by some as heroes willing to stake their lives. An investigation, as proposed by some lawmakers, seemed logical and necessary. In matters of life and death, especially, why should some be more equal than others? What is the purpose of having rules and laws when they could be broken, anyway, so long as it’s the right person who is doing the breaking?

Now no less than President Duterte has given the imprimatur for the PSG to not cooperate with the probe. His allies lambast the audacity of Congress to look into the matter and question its intrusion into Executive affairs, conveniently forgetting the notion of checks and balances inherent in our government system in the first place. The Armed Forces of the Philippines, playing its cards right, has backed down from its own probe.

All these would not have happened if our top officials were clear, deliberate and transparent about a vaccine rollout program. Alas, nothing of the sort exists. All we know, vaguely, is that the government has borrowed large sums for the purchase of vaccines—rom whom, we have no clue. There is no timetable, no breakdown, no listing of the hierarchy of sectors that would be given the much-anticipated doses. All we have are conflicting statements, policies that seem to be made up as they go along, late-night macho talk, and undue focus on other things unrelated to the containment of the virus and the revival of the economy.

What a relief that local governments and the private sector are stepping up to fill the gaps in this crucial stage of our battle against COVID-19. Unless we see a national plan, however, people in high places would feel bold enough to break rules that the rest of us do not even know exist. And then it would have been more than the virus that caused our woes.

Topics: Editorial , Opacity , audacity , Presidential Security Group , COVID-19 vaccines


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