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Drilon: PSG chief must be summoned to Senate probe into COVID-19 vaccine plan

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said on Thursday, December 31, that the Senate must summon Presidential Security Group (PSG) chief Brigadier General Jesus Durante when it probes the country's COVID-19 vaccine plan.

Drilon made the statement days after it was discovered that the PSG supposedly carried out – by itself – the vaccination of a handful of close-in security of President Rodrigo Duterte, using "donated" COVID-19 vaccine that has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for local use.

"The PSG Commander must be called and must appear in the investigation of the Committee of the Whole to shed light on this issue. The most important 'who' and 'how’'of the story remains a mystery," Drilon said.

Drilon said that Durante is "deliberately withholding the basic questions of who and how from the public."

"All they give to the public are alibis, excuses, and lies. There is more to it that will be revealed to the committee once Brigadier Gen. Durante appears in our hearing. The Senate must summon the PSG commander," he added.

In a television interview on Wednesday, Durante said that he takes "full responsibility" for the unauthorized early vaccination of the PSG members, claiming that they did the inoculation "independently." (READ: PSG chief: 'I take full responsibility' for unregistered vaccine use)

He admitted that the PSG members had been vaccinated against COVID-19 as early as September, while the last batch was done in October – all supposedly done without prior permission from the President, who was informed about it after the vaccinations.

The Bureau of Customs earlier said that the importation of the vaccine used by the PSG is not authorized, and said those involved may face smuggling complaints.

On December 14, the Senate adopted Senate Resolution No. 594 proposed by Senator Francis Pangilinan to convene as the committee of the whole to conduct a probe into the government's plans, or the lack thereof, for the national COVID-19 vaccination program. (READ: 'What is the game plan?' Senate to probe COVID-19 vaccination program)

Laws violated

In his statement, Drilon also expressed support for the order of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra for the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the unauthorized vaccination.

"Laws appear to have been violated. The DOJ and the NBI are mandated by law to investigate. No one is above the law. The Rule of Law must be the rule, rather than an exception," Drilon said.

In a statement on Wednesday, Pangilinan said that the controversial inoculation revealed the "lack of a clear, fair, and sound game plan on the control and management" of the pandemic.

"'Di ba meron ng guidelines ng mga mauuna sa mga bakuna kontra sa COVID na IATF din ang naglabas?" Pangilinan asked. (There are guidelines on the priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination, which was crafted by the IATF, right?)

FDA Director General Enrique Domingo earlier said that neither the Department of Health nor the FDA were consulted over the early use of unregistered COVID-19 vaccines.

The early vaccination activities angered the public, as priority had been given to select individuals outside of the government's own list of target priority groups – led by frontline health workers treating COVID-19 patients. (READ: PH to prioritize high-risk areas, sectors for COVID-19 vaccine rollout)

As of December 29, a total of 13,571 health workers have contracted COVID-19. Of these, 76 have died while 13,265 have recovered. The deadly virus has infected 472,532 people in the country. –

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.