DILG exec says Minglanilla mayor will be asked to explain inoculation

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THE Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will ask Minglanilla Mayor Elanito Peña, who is not a medical frontliner, to explain why he had himself inoculated against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said a show cause order will also be issued to Peña.

Five mayors have already been asked to explain why they jumped the queue in the Covid-19 vaccination program.

They are Tacloban City (Leyte) Mayor Alfred Romualdez, T’boli (South Cotabato) Mayor Dibu Tuan, Sto. Niño (South Cotabato) Mayor Sulpicio Villalobos, Legazpi City (Albay) Mayor Noel Rosal and Bataraza (Palawan) Mayor Abraham Ibba.

Officials of Minglanilla came to Peña’s defense on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, and denied allegations that the mayor jumped the priority queue for the vaccine.

In a statement, they said the mayor received his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine only after all health workers and frontliners in the town were inoculated.

They said more than 80 percent of the health workers of Minglanilla District Hospital were vaccinated on March 16.

Inoculations at the Rural Health Unit (RHU) 1 and 2 began on March 19.

Some RHU 1 workers received their first dose together with the mayor on March 23. All qualified RHU 2 workers who gave their consent were given their shots before March 23.

Health workers, utilities personnel and security guards at the temporary treatment and monitoring facility (TTMF) in the town as well as contact tracers and ambulance drivers were vaccinated between March 19 and 23, all ahead of the mayor.

Private hospitals and infirmaries vaccinated their frontliners on March 15 to 17.

Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, Department of Health (DOH 7) spokesperson, said their records show that San Lucas Hospital and Baking Medical Center were the first to implement the vaccination program on March 17.

“While it is true that Mayor Lani got vaccinated together with the barangay health workers and BHERT (Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams), Mayor Lani got vaccinated later during the day and more than anything else, Mayor Lani did not purposely have himself inserted or prioritized in lieu of the barangay health workers and frontliners,” the officials said.

The statement was signed by Dr. Jonah Damazo, municipal health officer (MHO); Dr. Mae Vicente, assistant MHO; and Councilors Jenny Young and Jaime Caumeran.

They said administering the vaccine to the mayor was “an honest initiative” to boost vaccine confidence.

Turnout had been low because of a “growing anxiety” over the safety of the vaccines, but the number of people who agreed to receive the shots increased after the mayor had himself inoculated. The statement did not, however, cite figures.

Peña earlier said he deserved to get the vaccine because he is also a frontliner as the head of the local task force against Covid-19. (ANV)