LGUs in the Philippines

DILG: Parañaque mayor should explain why actor, councilor cut vaccine line

Dwight de Leon
DILG: Parañaque mayor should explain why actor, councilor cut vaccine line

VACCINATION TEAM. Health workers at the COVID-19 vaccination site in Parañaque City.

Facebook page of Mayor Edwin Olivarez

'Nakakapikon,' says Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will ask Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez to explain why actor Mark Anthony Fernandez and a city councilor got COVID-19 vaccine jabs ahead of frontliners in his city.

In an interview with state-run PTV-4 on Thursday, March 25, Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said that the agency will issue a show-cause order to Olivarez on Thursday afternoon.

Command responsibility niya po ang pagsisigurado na ang ating vaccination plan ay nasunod sa kanyang lokal na gobyerno…. Nakakapikon at nakakasama ng loob para sa ating kababayan. Inuuna dapat natin ang ating frontline workers,” he said.

(It is his command responsibility to ensure that the local government follows our vaccination plan. It is infuriating and disheartening for our countrymen. We should prioritize our frontline workers.)

Olivarez earlier explained that the city government already inoculated all of its healthcare staff, putting Fernandez next in line in the vaccination list for being a person with comorbidities. He said the actor suffered from hypertension and depression.

Densing brushed aside what he called the mayor’s “excuse.”

Excuse na lang nila ‘yun. Noong lumabas sa balita na nakapagpalusot sila ng isang non-priority individual, gumawa na lang sila ng rason (It’s just their excuse. They just made up an excuse when news came out that they allowed a non-priority individual to jump the vaccine line),” the DILG official said.

He said that on top of Fernandez, he received information on Thursday morning that a Parañaque councilor – who is also not a frontliner – got vaccinated on Wednesday afternoon, March 24.

The DILG on Wednesday slapped show-cause orders against 5 mayors who disregarded the vaccine priority list:  Alfred Romualdez of Tacloban, Leyte; Dibu Tuan of T’boli, South Cotabato; Sulpicio Villalobos of Sto Niño, South Cotabato; Noel Rosal of Legazpi, Albay; and Abraham Ibba of Bataraza, Palawan.

President Rodrigo Duterte called our the mayors in a televised address on Wednesday night, along with 4 other mayors – Elanito Peña of Minglanilla, Cebu; Victoriano Torres III of Alicia, Bohol; Virgilio Mendez of San Miguel, Bohol; and Arturo Piollo II of Lila, Bohol.

Densing said the DILG plans to also issue a show-cause order against the 4 mayors and two other local chief executives once the agency verifies that indeed cut the vaccine line.

He added that the local chief executives would face an administrative complaint before the Office of the Ombudman if they do not provide a sufficient explanation within 3 days after they receive the show-cause orders.

Densing said, however, that the mayors who cut the vaccine line will still get a second vaccine shot despite the violation.

‘Suspicious’ substitution list

Densing also sounded the alarm over how LGUs choose substitutes in the event that the original vaccine recipient backs out from taking the jab.

Either nagpalakasan o nagkapabayaan – hindi natin malaman – so nagiging kaduda-duda po ‘yung kanilang subsitution list (Their substitution list has become suspicious. Either someone did not do his job or someone used his connections. We do not know.),” Densing said.

Kapag hindi available ang babakunahan, iyong substitution, dapat nandoon din sa mga priority individuals (If the person to be vaccinated is not available, the substitute should also be a priority individual),” he added.

The Department of Health earlier warned that administering the scarce shots to people who are not on the priority list may jeopardize succeeding doses to be given by global vaccine-sharing alliance COVAX facility.

The Philippines expects to receive donated vaccines from COVAX enough to immunize up to 20% of its population against COVID-19 in 2021. – Rappler.com

Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.