The Catholic Church’s social action arm renewed its call for the government to hasten the process of vaccine selection and approval and ensure the distribution of the vaccine to priority sectors and not a select few

Caritas Philippines’ national director Bishop Jose Colin M. Bagaforo said that “it was irresponsible to allow the breach of regulatory process” and lamented the fact that “our government is actually tolerating such imprudent and unauthorized action, even if PSG is saying the vaccines were donated.”

Bagaforo was reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s admission that the Presidential Security Group (PSG) acquired and had been given Covid-19 vaccines. 

PSG Chief Brigadier General Jesus Durante said in an interview on ANC that he takes “full responsibility” for the unregistered vaccine administered on several close-in security of the president. 

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the vaccines were “smuggled” into the country since these were not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Yes smuggled, because they were not authorized, only the government can authorize,” he told reporters.

“They need to explain because they violated FDA rules.”

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año admitted that a cabinet official, whom he refused to name, was also given an unapproved Covid-19 vaccine.

Caritas Philippines’ executive secretary Fr. Antonio E. Labiao Jr. said “while we agree on the list of priority sectors to be vaccinated first, it is imperative for the government to ensure that majority of the Filipinos will have access to the vaccines when its already available for mass use,” adding that “in this time of pandemic, we must strive to do away with selfish interests.”

As early as June 2020, Caritas Philippines joined the global call to make any available Covid vaccine be accessible  for all. President Rodrigo Duterte repeatedly said during his weekly late night address to the nation that having a vaccine will solve the pandemic.  He also said that his goal was to provide free vaccine to all 113 million Filipinos. However, the Department of Finance says that they are looking on how to source the P73.2 billion pesos needed to pay for the vaccination of 60 million of the nation’s population.

Labiao said that the Church’s social action arm will exert all efforts available to assist the government in easing the burden being experienced, especially in the most marginalized communities.

Since March 2020, the social action network in the country was able to provide more than P1 billion worth of assistance through its national partners, and Caritas Internationalis, the global confederation of Catholic charities, which is headed by former Manila Archbisop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.

“Our goal has always been to prioritize aid corresponding to the needs of the vulnerable Filipinos. We will continue to be vigilant, especially of government actions, to ensure that the rights, welfare and dignity of the Filipino people prevail over political machinations, vested interests, and greed for power,” Bagaforo said.   Rommel F. Lopez