Duterte orders PSG to skip Congress vaccine probe, warns solons of 'little crisis'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 5) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ordered his close-in security detail to ignore lawmakers if they are called to testify on their covert vaccination activity using unregistered drugs.

In his address to the nation, he told Presidential Security Group Chief Jesus Durante to disobey possible summons from the Congress to testify on the much-criticized inoculation as part of "self preservation." Should they decide to attend any legislative investigation, he told them not to disclose any information.

"I would ask the PSG to just shut up. Do not answer. Invoke the right against self-incrimination at wala kayong makukuha[ You won't get any information]. And do not force my soldiers to testify against their will," he said in his taped late-night address.

He warned members of the Congress to keep their hands off the PSG, saying there will be a "little crisis" if they cite his men in contempt for failing to attend hearings.

"I would like to call on Congress na hindi naman ako nakikiusap. Ang ano ko lang diretso na salita na do not tinker with the PSG. I’m telling you as President," he warned. ‘Pag ginawa ninyo ‘yan, there will be a little crisis. Nasa inyo."

[Translation: I am not asking for a favor. I am telling you not to tinker with the PSG. I am telling you as the President. If you do that, there will be a little crisis. It's up to you.]

The Senate is scheduled to look into the government's COVID-19 vaccination plan on Jan. 11, but not specifically on the PSG's covert vaccination. The Makabayan bloc on Tuesday filed a House resolution to probe the "VIP vaccination."

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday said that it is within the President's power to invoke executive privilege by barring his personnel from attending legislative hearings. He said Congress can tap other sources to get to the bottom of the issue.

As PSG faces more heat, Duterte defends his personnel, saying they are just doing their job to protect him — as mandated by law.

"I am prepared to defend my soldiers. I will not allow them, for all of their good intentions, to be brutalized in hearings," he said.

The President denied knowledge of the underground inoculation and the brand of smuggled vaccines used by the PSG. This comes weeks after he admitted on national television that "almost all soldiers" have received China-made vaccine Sinopharm even without approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

"I don’t know really if they were injected with the vaccine, what brand, hindi ko alam. Do not presume na sabi kino-cover up," he said.

PSG Chief Durante himself admitted that his team received vaccines, but refused to disclose the source of the unregistered drugs.