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PSG defends inoculation of Duterte's close-in security

The Presidential Security Group (PSG) on Monday defended the inoculation of President Rodrigo Duterte's close-in security detail versus COVID-19 despite the absence of any vaccine duly registered with the Food and Drug Administration.

In a statement, PSG commander Brigadier General Jesus Durante said members of the PSG "performing close-in security operations" to Duterte had been vaccinated.

"We are in a state of war, a war against COVID 19. War compels us to survive as what we are now doing in this pandemic," Durante said.

Durante said it was the PSG's primordial task to ensure that Duterte was healthy so he could serve Filipinos.

"PSG is the primary unit of the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] that is mandated to protect the nation's highest leader. With the current pandemic, PSG needs to ensure that they are not themselves threat to the President's health and safety," Durante said.

"As such, the PSG administered COVID-19 vaccine to its personnel performing close-in security operations to the President. National security imposes the protection of the President being the Commander in-Chief from all forms of threat, especially COVID-19, in order to preserve the stability of our nation," he added.

Durante said that the vaccination was not done for personal agenda but for a "greater pursuit that is even way beyond our mission of protecting our President." 

He, however, said the PCG could not speak about the effectiveness of the vaccine administered among its personnel.

"COVID-19 is a first in history, and the whole world is hopeful in developing and obtaining the perfect vaccine. PSG's decision to take the risk is a courageous step that greatly supports its mandate," Durante said.

Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte bared that some soldiers had already been vaccinated against COVID-19 using the vaccine from Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm.

Philippine Army chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana said members of certain military units had been vaccinated. He was not certain if the vaccines given to military officials and non-commissioned officers were indeed from Sinopharm.

Amid inquiries on Duterte's pronouncement, AFP spokesman Major General Edgard Arevalo said personnel from the PSG were the first ones who got vaccinated.

Aside from military men, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año disclosed that some Cabinet members also got vaccinated. He, however, did not identify who among the officials were already vaccinated against the virus.

For Año, the vaccines could already be used especially by health workers and other frontliners because of an emergency use authorization.

However, FDA Director-General Eric Domingo said that the agency had yet to approve any vaccine for COVID-19 in the Philippines.

He said the unauthorized administration of vaccines was being looked into.

Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque reasoned out that the vaccination of some soldiers was voluntary, noting that the military needs protection from being infected.

Philippine National Police chief Police General Debold Sinas said the PNP was coordinating with the FDA regarding the unauthorized vaccination. -NB, GMA News