Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo

MANILA – Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Sunday said the Presidential Security Group (PSG) personnel who received a coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine that is yet to be approved by local regulators should be “commended” for putting their lives at risk to protect President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a statement, Panelo noted that even if the vaccine has yet to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the PSG decided to be inoculated to “accomplish their duty of protecting the President from Covid-19 infection.”

“Consciously endangering one’s own life, is not a crime. Instead of being criticized, these sentinels of the President should be commended for putting their lives on the line to protect PRRD,” he said.

He also explained that PSG, being front-liners, are included in the priority list to be subjected to Covid-19 vaccine.

“The priority list for those to be inoculated under the government's vaccination program is unchanged,” he said.

According to Panelo, while existing laws provide that any new drug should have previous authorization from the FDA, clinical studies showed that the vaccines were safe, efficacious and of good quality for use.

He said PSG members, cannot be held liable for manufacturing, importing, exporting, selling, offering for sale, distributing, or transferring any new drug, including vaccines, without the proper authorization from the FDA because all they did was have themselves inoculated.

“As to those individuals who use their own resources in administering unto themselves unsanctioned vaccines, believing that the same is in accordance with their call of duty, they do so at their own risk,” he said.

Moreover, he noted that PSG members were vaccinated without the use of public funds.

“Hence, this issue is not a matter of who should have received the vaccine first as the PSG's undertaking was not government-sponsored nor sanctioned -- their members acting on their own initiative,” he said.

Panelo also pointed out that the PSG’s move has not caused any damage nor injury to anyone, including the public.

Some lawmakers and other critics earlier questioned the PSG’s decision to be inoculated with a non-approved Covid-19 vaccine, saying Republic Act 9711 or the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009 appears to have been violated.

Malacañang insisted that the PSG did not violate FDA law because the Covid-19 vaccines were given to them as a “token” during the yuletide season.

Despite saying the vaccines were a donation, Roque did not elaborate on which country or organization they came from.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has directed the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the use of the vaccine by PSG personnel and how they obtained it.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said all remaining units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) would wait for the official rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine that will be acquired by the government before they can be inoculated. (PNA)