Malacañang has distanced itself from newspaper columnist and special envoy to China Ramon Tulfo after the latter claimed he was vaccinated with smuggled doses of Sinopharm in October last year.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the Duterte administration does not tolerate smuggling and the use of unregistered COVID-19 vaccines.
“We have no opinion whatsoever with regards to Mon Tulfo’s write ups. The Duterte administration does not patronize smuggled products and the use of unregistered COVID-19 vaccines is not a government policy,” Roque said.
The Palace official also qualified Tulfo’s claim that the President was open to getting inoculated with the Sinopharm vaccine.
“While the President likes Sinopharm, it has not secured an emergency use authorization yet. This is the reason why his doctors and advisers have advised against it. We have to wait for the EUA approval,” Roque said.
The Food and Drug Administration has to issue an EUA for a vaccine to be legally used in the country. The FDA is also allowed to issue a permit for compassionate use similar to what it issued belatedly to the Presidential Security Group after the soldiers received vaccine doses from China.
In a television interview, Tulfo said he got injected with the smuggled doses in October last year because he wanted
He insisted that he saw nothing wrong with his actions and he should not be held liable since he was no longer a government official when he got the jabs.
“I approached them as a private citizen not as a government official, I never used my position as special envoy to China in dealing with the private company here. As far as I’m concerned I did not commit any wrongdoing in having myself vaccinated,” Tulfo said.
Tulfo claimed he got inoculated along with “other government officials” but did not identify them.
The FDA said it would investigate Tulfo’s claim of receiving smuggled vaccine doses.
“We will investigate this because it is not good that we learn that there are vaccinations that did not go through the right process,” FDA director general Eric Domingo said in a public briefing.
The Department of Health also warned the public against the use and distribution of smuggled vaccines, saying these are illegal actions.
“As to those people who are using vaccines without EUA and also suppliers supplying vaccines without EUA, this is illegal and you can be sanctioned and given penalties because of this,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
“If he (Tulfo) is really the designated supplier or local distributor of this vaccine in our country, they need to apply for the necessary permits, licenses, and also the EUA,” she added.
The Civil Service Commission also reminded government workers to obey the law, which include health standards set by authorities as part of the COVID-19 response.
“Civil servants are not above the law. Like everyone else, public officials and employees are bound to obey the law, and that includes compliance to the standards set forth by the government authorities leading the battle against COVID-19,” CSC commissioner Aileen Lizada said in a statement.