Military will distribute coronavirus vaccine, says Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte has again tapped the military, this time, for the distribution of coronavirus vaccines once available, as he stressed that he trusted soldiers more than local officials to do the job.

Saying he didn not trust barangay captains who may politicize the distribution of vaccines, Duterte said: "Military lang (only the military). There's a setup, there's a task force, but the implementing arm, military."

Duterte would later clarify in his speech that while the military would be in charge of vaccine distribution,  nurses would administer the vaccine.

Duterte said soldiers will also be deployed to hospitals where Filipinos can get the vaccine – even to police stations, sidelining cops this time when  soldiers and policemen were supposed to be both on the front lines of the government's coronavirus response.

"Mga pulis pakinggan 'nyo mabuti, ayaw ko nang magka-atraso kayo dito, kagaya 'yung nagka-atraso, nagkamali, kulong talaga 'yun. Punta kayo sa pulis, pero military ang tututok sa 'yo," said Duterte.

(Policemen, listen to me carefully, I don't want you to run into trouble here, unlike the others who made a mistake, they will really go to jail. So you (the people) go to police stations, but soldiers will take charge.)

There have been incidents that further stained the image of the police during the pandemic, including the murder of former soldier Winston Ragos and the shooting incident in Jolo, Sulu, where 9 cops had been charged with the murder of 4 military intelligence men.

Priority

Duterte also said that both soldiers and cops would be prioritized for vaccines.

"Also my military and my police because I need a strong backbone. The backbone of my administration is the uniformed personnel of government," he said.

Duterte said lower-income Filipinos, the same people who received financial assistance from the government during the pandemic, would be on top of the government's priority list for COVID-19 vaccination.

Duterte said rich Filipinos should just pay for it.

"Iyong mga mayaman, huwag na ninyong – huwag na ninyo akong isipin kasi hindi ako nag-iisip sa inyo. Sorry na lang (For the rich, don't think of me because I'm also not thinking of you. Sorry)," said Duterte.

Duterte again praised China for its development of vaccines, and reiterated that China had promised to prioritize the Philippines once its ready to sell. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the government is ready to give the Department of Health (DOH) roughly P20 billion of funds as soon as it is able to choose which vaccine to purchase.

Duterte told Filipinos that since he already secured China's commitment, they had to endure the pandemic until China rolls out its vaccine. The President said he hoped things would go "back to normal" by December.

"Mayroon akong bakuna. Ang hingiin ko sa inyo ganito: Magtiis lang kayo nang kaunti dahil nga sa hawaan (I have a vaccine already. All I ask you is this: Endure for a just a little bit because of the transmission of the virus).... I promise you,  by the grace of God, I hope by December we would be back to normal," Duterte said. 

On Thursday, July 30, the Philippines reported a record-high single day increase of 3,954 cases, bringing the total number to 89,374.

Metro Manila had 1,703 new cases on Thursday – the highest number among areas – followed by Cebu province at 958. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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