IN a strange twist from his usual double-talk in addressing issues troubling the administration, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. tried to douse the fire engulfing the use of illegal Chinese vaccines by members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG), telling people to shut up about it already.

He contends that the problem will vanish in a flash if the public would stop talking about the irregularity in the vaccination program. No talk, no problem, he reasons.

And yet, Secretary Roque himself has kept on talking about the vaccine controversy. He contends without proof that the illegal vaccine controversy is now a closed issue. So, it is time for the nation to move on.

Closed issue? How can the issue be closed when the government has not determined or explained: 1) how the Sinopharm vaccines were brought into the country and who vaccinated the PSG members; and 2) who gave the order, allowing the use of the vaccines without approval.

How does Roque close out the incontrovertible fact that the vaccines used on the PSG members did not receive the required approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they can be rolled out?

How does he explain away the fact that according to the approved vaccination plan, uniformed personnel such as the military from where the members of the Presidential Security Group are plucked are listed as the fifth priority in the government plan to vaccinate Filipinos against Covid-19.

How does he wave away questions and worries that the illegal vaccines, far from working, could do harm to the PSG members?

These are all legitimate questions that cannot be shirked.

Probably realizing that his request for people to stop talking is impossible in the age of the internet, coupled with this time of a pandemic, Roque changed tune and declared, instead, that the presidential security personnel will be open to a probe by government agencies.

He turned maudlin, saying, “The message of the PSG is clear: they are ready to die for the security of the President. Their mission is to protect the President of the Republic of the Philippines and his immediate family. So, they made the decision, even if it was without authorization, to get vaccinated. In other words, because they were ready to die for him, they decided to get inoculated in order to lessen the chances of the President transmitting the virus.”

“We aren’t hiding anything, VP (Vice President) Leni Robredo,” he added, addressing the vice president, who earlier called for transparency in the investigation into the issue, casting fear that it would only hurt efforts for the public to trust the supposed Covid-19 vaccines.

Finally, Roque, once again, turned to a familiar narrative he uses in situations of controversy: that legitimate concerns being raised against the Duterte administration’s shortcomings are supposedly just a trumped-up narrative being exploited by its enemies and the political opposition.

“Let us stop this discussion because our conversations at this moment should now be focused on the vaccines when they’re coming and how we’ll be able to spread it among our countrymen. Let’s stop the politics. We already know that this issue that is being used by the enemies of the government is not going to end. The President pays tribute to the PSG. And they risked their lives for him,” he said.

We doubt, however, whether the public and the media will stop talking about the PSG vaccine controversy as requested by Secretary Roque. The opposition especially will be loath to let go of this ammunition against the administration.

Roque himself won’t be able to stop talking or double-talking the issue. Watch him in his next media briefing.


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