THE Department of Interior and Local Government yesterday said governors, mayors, and barangay captains have moved up in the priority list in the government’s vaccination program.
Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III made the announcement after President Duterte late Wednesday ordered Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to look into the case of mayors and a show business personality who received COVID-19 vaccines ahead of frontline health workers who are the top priority in the immunization drive.
Densing earlier on Wednesday said the department has issued show-cause orders to the mayors.
Yesterday, he said local chief executives (LCEs) are now the under A4 sub-category, composed of frontline personnel in essential sectors, like soldiers and policemen. They were originally under the B2 category, or government workers.
“Ang ating mayors and governors all 1,715 of them and the 42,046 barangay captains ay nailipat na po sa A4 priority list. (Our mayors and governors, all 1,715 of them and 42,046 barangay captains were moved to A4 priority list),” he said at the “Laging Handa” press briefing.
There are five sub-classifications under the A category — A1 (healthcare workers), A2 (senior citizens), A3 (persons with comorbidities), A4 (frontline personnel in essential sectors) and A5 (indigent population).
There are also six sub-classifications under the B category — B1 (teachers and social workers), B2 (government workers), B3 (other essential workers), B4 (socio-demographic groups at significant higher risk) B5 (overseas Filipino workers), B6 (other remaining workforce).
The rest of the population are listed under the category C.
Densing said that on the request of the LCEs, he asked the Inter-Agency Task Force on Thursday last week to move the governors, mayors and barangay captains up in the priority list because of the nature of their jobs.
Densing made the statement a day after DILG issued show-cause orders to mayors Alfred Romualdez of Tacloban City in Leyte; Dibu Tuan of T’boli, South Cotabato; Sulpicio Villalobos of Sto Niño, South Cotabato; Noel Rosal of Legazpi CIty, Albay; and Abraham Iba of Bataraza, Palawan.
On Wednesday night, President Duterte named four 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 would also serve show-cause orders to the four to get their explanation. He said the nine will be administratively charged before the Office of the Ombudsman if they cannot satisfactorily explain.
Densing the DILG is verifying reports about two more mayors who also reportedly jumped the line. He said the two, who he did not identify, would also be given show-cause orders.
Densing said the same order will be issued to Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez for the inoculation of show business personality Mark Anthony Fernandez who he said is not in the priority list.
Olivarez has defended Fernandez’ vaccination, saying he actor was qualified as a substitute, and has comorbidity.
Densing said Olivarez, under the show cause order, will be asked to explain, by virtue of “command responsibility,” why the priority list under vaccination plan was not followed.
Told that Fernandez was a substitute and he has a comorbidity, Densing said he is not buying the excuse. He said Fernandez is healthy. He also said the Parañaque City list of substitutes is now in question.
“Either nagpalakasan o nagkabayaran or hindi natin malaman. So naging kadudaduka yung kanilang substitution list. (It’s either there was favoritism, or money changed hands or we don’t know. This put into question their substitution list),” he said.
Mendez said he was vaccinated with AstraZeneca vaccine as a substitute. He said eight who were scheduled to receive the vaccine in San Miguel town did not show up.
Since he is a senior citizen with comorbidity, Mendez said he asked the doctor if he can take the place of one who did not show up, and the physician said `I think there is nothing wrong…”
President Duterte, in an address on Wednesday night, said ignoring the priority list may adversely affect the vaccine assistance the country is receiving from the World Health Organization which requires the prioritization of healthcare workers.
“Kasi sinabi ng sa atin ng country representative ng WHO, if you do not follow the list of priority, you might lose the assistance of the WHO (The WHO country representative told us that of you do not follow the list of priority, you might lose the assistance of the WHO),” he said.
Duque said the government must strictly follow the vaccine priority list considering that the country still has a low supply of vaccines, adding that as of March 23, the country has in its vaccine inventory 1,525,600 doses which he said is only around 30 percent of the needed 3.4 million doses for 1.7 million health frontliners. – With Raymond Africa