Abalos blames ‘fake news’ in crowding at NCR vaccination sites


The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) on Thursday denied a report that Metro Manila mayors would not extend cash perks to those who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19, and asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the spread of such “fake news” and misinformation.

MMDA Chairman Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. blamed the influx of people to the vaccination centers on Thursday to the viral spread of the fake news in social media.

Abalos said the fake news alarmed the public and went in droves to vaccination sites in Manila, Las Piñas, and Masinag in Antipolo.

“Everything was in order until the proliferation of this fake news. These misinformation would affect not only the vaccination process and target, but would cause harm to peoples’ lives,” Abalos emphasized.

‘No vaccine, no work’ policy

The Department of Health (DOH), on the other hand, clarified that the policy on “no vaccine, no work” is not allowed.

The DOH stated that based on the Department of Labor and Employment Advisory No.03 Series of 2021, all employers may “encourage” their employees to get vaccinated.

“However, any employee who chooses not to get vaccinated or fails to get vaccinated shall not be discriminated against in terms of employment,” the DOH said in an advisory.

“Additionally, Republic Act 11525 states that vaccine cards shall not be considered as an additional requirement for employment purposes,” DOH said.

‘No bakuna, no ayuda’ policy

Meanwhile, Abalos issued a clarification on the alleged “no bakuna, no ayuda” in the National Capital Region (NCR).

“To set the record straight, the distribution of ayuda and/or benefits or privileges is not anchored on whether an individual has been inoculated or not,” Abalos said.

In a letter sent to NBI Officer-in-Charge Eric Distor, Abalos asked the NBI to probe the sources of fake news and hold the purveyors accountable.

“I am requesting your Bureau to initiate the investigation of the said fake news in order for those persons responsible therefore to be held accountable in causing unruliness at the vaccination sites and thereafter to file the necessary charges against them,” said Abalos, in his letter.

Abalos also said that the ayuda or cash aid from the government amounting to P1,000 to P4,000 will be given to low-income residents—regardless if they are vaccinated or not.
He also reiterated the commitment of the 17 local government units in Metro Manila to administer 250,000 jabs daily during the two-week enhanced community quarantine period as the national government approved NCR’s request for 4 million vaccines to achieve population protection the soonest time possible.

To date, there are more than 10 million total doses administered in the entire metropolis and with the 4 million vaccine allocation in the NCR during ECQ, 12.6 at least 45 percent of the NCR population will be inoculated after the lockdown.

“All the local chief executives in Metro Manila are resolved to ramp up the vaccination program. We assure the public that the supply of vaccines is secured,” Abalos said.

The MMDA chairman advised the public against the spread of such fake news that only causes disorder to the program.
“Do not believe in fake news. Let us wait for your vaccination schedule. Local chief executives of Metro Manila are on top of the situation, ensuring that queues are orderly,” he said.

Govt action

JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra assured on Thursday that the government would take appropriate action in connection with the “chaotic” Covid-19 vaccinations that transpired in several areas, particularly in Manila City.

Guevarra, also a senior member of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), made the statement when asked about the task force’s possible action against local officials for turning their vaccination sites into Covid-19 “super spreader” events.

Even Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, in his regular media briefing, warned that local officials may face dereliction of duty charges if they fail to address overcrowding and other breach of health protocols in their vaccination sites.

“I’m sorry to hear about this incident. I’m sure that the DILG [Department of the Interior and Local Government] has taken note of this incident and will take the appropriate action,” Guevarra said.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año is also a senior member of the IATF.

Earlier, President Duterte directed the DILG to compel local government units (LGU) to fix their vaccination system to ensure that people are not exposed to health risks and other inconveniences on the day of their vaccination.

The Manila City government headed by Mayor Isko Moreno has been under fire for opening the vaccination program of the city to walk-ins despite the limited number of vaccines, resulting in overcrowding and long lines in vaccination sites.

On Tuesday, Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje also urged LGUs to restrict walk-in vaccination to prevent mass gathering and super spreader events.

Cabotaje suggested limiting the walk-in policy to senior citizens being vulnerable to Covid-19.

“The more important thing at this time is to make sure that no similar incident of overcrowding at vaccine sites will happen again,” Guevarra pointed out.

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