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Duterte warns LGUs: Ramp up Covid-19 vaccination or face sanctions



President Rodrigo Duterte has taunted local officials that they could get slapped with administrative charges if they fail to fulfill their duties in vaccinating their constituents against Covid-19.

The President issued the warning during his public address Monday night as he urged mayors and barangay officials to speed up anti-coronavirus inoculation efforts and convince their reluctant constituents to get Covid-19 shots.

“I tell you, either you follow us or you have to answer to Interior Secretary [Eduardo] Año, who is supervising local government units,” Duterte said.

“Bear in mind that you can face a case, even administratively, in which sanctions include dismissal from office or suspension,” he added.

Local officials, the President said, should form a “systematic” way to identify who among their constituents have yet to receive Covid-19 vaccines.

Among his proposals include door-to-door surveys, adding that village chiefs should personally convince residents within their jurisdictions to get vaccinated against coronavirus.

“Please do everything to convince them to get vaccinated,” Duterte said, noting that local officials should “impose their authority” to carry out the government’s immunization drive.

“You have to tell them to obey because it’s the order of the government,” he added.

It was not the first time that Duterte threatened local officials with charges over dereliction of duty in their Covid-19 response, which is punishable under the Revised Penal Code. Last April, he also warned mayors that they could be held liable for failing to prevent mass gatherings in their areas, reinforcing his heavy-handed approach in addressing the pandemic.

Without ramping up inoculation efforts, the Chief Executive feared that the government won’t be able to reach its target of vaccinating 50 million individuals this year — a goal set by the health department to achieve population protection against Covid-19.

At present, only 25.71 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, while 30 million individuals were still waiting for their second doses.

“We plan to vaccinate at the rate of one to 1.5 million [people] in the next few days and weeks,” Duterte said.

“Our plan is to inoculate 50 million individuals at the end of the year, and we can’t reach this target if we plateau at 400,000 or 500,000 daily jabs,” he added.

Anti-coronavirus vaccination remains optional in the country, though there were proposals in the Congress to make it mandatory amid the persisting threat of respiratory illness.

Pending the enactment of a law mandating vaccination, the government can only boost its information campaign on the benefits of Covid-19 shots to convince Filipinos to get inoculated.

The country is teeming with Covid-19 vaccine supply with 97.86 million doses delivered so far, but only 76.75 million doses have been deployed, based on the government’s latest data.

Provincial governors have been urging the national government to hasten the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines in areas outside Metro Manila, which has been prioritized in inoculation efforts for almost half a year.