Briones: Duque’s warning

Publio J. Briones III
·2 min read

SOMEONE out there is administering unregistered coronavirus vaccines and Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III wants to punish them for it. Never mind that the culprits might be government doctors and the first recipients were members of the Presidential Security Group -- you know, members of the military who are charged with guarding the President -- or some high-ranking government officials. There’s no denying the first part since this was confirmed by President Rodrigo Duterte and later seconded, albeit begrudgingly and after an initial denial, by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. But I can understand why Secretary Duque is having a hissy fit. The revelation shows how inutile the DOH has been in the fight against the pandemic, a health issue which makes it within its purview, when it doesn’t even know or can’t control what other government agencies are doing. Or maybe Duque had known all along and only kept his silence because he was ordered to or he knew how it would look if the matter ever came out in public. Not that this mess is his fault, mind you. He is, after all, only reacting. He had no choice but to release a statement because the President, with the latter’s “big reveal,” had forced the health secretary’s hand. Duque had to say something. Otherwise, he ran the risk of looking like a nincompoop. “We will investigate the illegal administration of unauthorized smuggled vaccines, specifically doctors and other medical professionals who administer them. We will have their medical licenses revoked,” Duque said in a joint statement with the country’s Food and Drug Administration issued on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020. Then again, why go through all this charade? Some of you might say that none of this would have happened if the President hadn’t opened his mouth. I for one saw nothing wrong with the President’s security detail getting vaccinated first. After all, their primary responsibility is to protect him. They’d have been remiss in their job if they infected him with the disease. But make no mistake that they’re the exception. Because we have not been living under normal circumstances since the coronavirus arrived on our shores more than nine months ago. And that’s the line Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque used to justify the PSG receiving unregistered vaccines. Roque said the PSG “acted in the name of ‘national security’.” Whether you believe Roque or not, the fact remains that Duque is right to go after unscrupulous doctors, especially since public health is at stake. More importantly, we should all know by now that different rules apply to lesser mortals.