LGUs in the Philippines

DILG orders 5 mayors to explain why they cut COVID-19 vaccine line

Dwight de Leon
DILG orders 5 mayors to explain why they cut COVID-19 vaccine line

EARLY VACCINATION. Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez is vaccinated despite not being a health worker.

Alfred Romualdez's Facebook page

(UPDATED) The local government department says it is also verifying reports of at least five other local officials disregarding the vaccine priority list

Five mayors across the Philippines were slapped with show-cause orders Wednesday, March 24, for supposedly cutting the COVID-19 vaccination line, Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III confirmed.

These mayors are 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.

The issuance of the show-cause orders came a day after Malacañang tasked the Department of the Interior and Local Government to investigate the early vaccination of Romualdez.

Romualdez posted on Facebook a photo and video of himself receiving the jab on Monday, March 22, despite not being a health worker.

He had said that he took the jab to “boost” the public’s confidence in vaccines.

Meanwhile, Legazpi City Mayor Rosal told Rappler he didn’t volunteer nor signify interest in being prioritized for vaccination. Instead, Department of Health regional director Dr Ernie Vera suggested he be inoculated to boost confidence in the vaccine. 

This was after a number of health workers and other frontliners refused to get vaccinated. Rosal got the China-made Sinovac on March 16.

Densing said the DILG is still verifying reports of other local government unit (LGU) officials disregarding the vaccine priority list. “May mga lima pa (We’re looking at around 5 more),” he said.

Densing confirmed that among the incidents they are checking is the early vaccination of Mayor Elanito Peña of Minglanilla, Cebu.

Peña took the COVID-19 vaccine from AtraZeneca on Tuesday, March 23, despite not being included in the priority scheme.

Not the first time

Earlier in March, Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya also skipped the vaccine queue, but while Malacañang acknowledged it was a breach in protocol, it said that the inoculation was “done in good faith.”

The Philippines’ current vaccine supply is intended only for those categorized under the top vaccine priority population group, which consists of health frontline workers, as well as health professionals and non-professionals like students, nursing aides, janitors, and barangay health workers.

The Department of Health (DOH) already reiterated its reminder to the public on Wednesday not to skip the vaccination queue.

Wag nating kunin ‘yung bakuna para sa taong magliligtas ng ating buhay. (Let us not get vaccines intended for people who will save our lives). Let us wait for our turn, darating tayo sa punto na mababakunahan tayong lahat (we will get to the point where everyone will be vaccinated),” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

Must Read

DOH warns vs jumping vaccine line: ‘COVAX doses may be jeopardized’

DOH warns vs jumping vaccine line: ‘COVAX doses may be jeopardized’

The Philippines earlier launched its mass vaccine program on March 1, 2021, with AstraZeneca doses from COVAX and Sinovac doses donated by China.

But even before the first legal vaccination in the country in March, several government officials and President Rodrigo Duterte’s close-in security received vaccines without the required approval of the Food and Drug Administration. – with a report from Rhaydz B. Barcia/Rappler.com

Dwight de Leon

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