The social action arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines called on the government to give all Filipinos access to COVID-19 vaccines when these become available.
Caritas Philippines made the statement in the wake of reports that the government was able to acquire vaccines for President Rodrigo Duterte’s security personnel.
Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, national coordinator of Caritas Philippines, said the move was “irresponsible” and a “breach of regulatory process.”
The prelate expressed indignation over the incident, saying the government “is actually tolerating such imprudent and unauthorized action” even if the vaccines were donated.
On Wednesday, December 30, Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III, commander of the Presidential Security Group, bared that the president’s security detail were administered a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We vaccinated ourselves. It’s so easy,” the general said in a television interview. “For now, we’ve found the appropriate vaccine for us, which I could say is a traditional vaccine, so we took the risk,” he said.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año earlier confirmed that a Cabinet member and a number of security personnel have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Food and Drug Administration, however, said no vaccine has been approved yet for official use, adding that it is illegal to import, distribute and for a doctor or medical practitioner to administer unregistered drugs in the country.
In June, Caritas Philippines called on the government to make whatever COVID-19 vaccine available for all.
Father Antonio Labiao Jr., Caritas Philippines executive secretary, said “it is important now” for health officials to speed up “all regulatory processes so that vaccines will be available to us soonest.”
In a statement, the priest said “it is imperative for the government to ensure that majority of the Filipinos will have access to the vaccines when its already available for mass use.”
“In this time of pandemic, we must strive to do away with selfish interests,” said Father Labiao.
He said Caritas Philippines will exert all efforts to assist the government in easing the burden in the most marginalized communities during the pandemic.
Since March, the social action network was able to provide more than 1 billion pesos worth of assistance through its national partners and the global confederation of Catholic charities.
“Our goal has always been to prioritize aid corresponding to the needs of the vulnerable Filipinos,” said Bishop Bagaforo in a statement.
“We will continue to be vigilant, especially of government actions, to ensure that the rights, welfare and dignity of the Filipino people prevail over political machinations, vested interests, and greed for power,” he added.