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Senate to cease summoning PSG in inquiry on unauthorized COVID-19 vax drive; AFP backtracks on independent investigation

The National Bureau of Investigation, however, will soldier on and investigate the use of unregistered COVID-19 vaccines despite Duterte’s gag order on his security detail.

It would seem President Rodrigo Duterte is on the side of his Presidential Security Group’s alleged smuggling and unauthorized vaccination of its personnel to protect him against COVID-19–and the Senate is heeding his “order”.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters on January 5 that although the Senate Committee of the Whole will push through with the executive’s plan for COVID-19 vaccination this year, the inquiry will not focus on PSG’s use of the unauthorized and allegedly smuggled vaccine.

“Yes, tuloy. Bakit? Sino nagsabi sa Presidente na PSG ang topic sa Lunes? Roadmap ng P72.5 [billion] ang topic!” he told reporters.

Sotto, who also chairs the committee, said someone is “getting ahead” of him for telling Duterte that Senate will summon PSG to its inquiry—allegedly pointing the finger at Senator Franklin Drilon who suggested it.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), who were conducting an investigation of their own, have also stopped after Duterte ordered PSG not to cooperate with probes.

The National Bureau of Investigation, however, will continue despite Duterte’s announcement because their orders come from Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

In a statement, the NBI said questions on the PSG vaccine probe have already been sent to the Food and Drug Administration. They are also trying to reach out to the Bureau of Customs and PSG chief Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III.

They will also reach out civic leader Teresita Ang-See, who revealed that more than 100,000 Chinese nationals living and working in the country have already been inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine.

To date, the NBI still does not know how many PSG personnel have been vaccinated.

In his weekly televised address, Duterte has ordered Durante to “stay put in the barracks” and not obey the summons of either the Senate or the House of Representatives.

Duterte has insisted in protecting his security detail, saying “Galvez is taking care of the vaccine for the Filipino public. The ones PSG had are none of your business.”

Hours before Duterte’s speech aired, however, Presidential Speaker Harry Roque said the PSG would face any investigation, legal case, or punishment from their actions.

Roque has since claimed that Duterte’s announcement “is not really a gag order.”

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