VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Roque DID NOT say ‘poor have no right to choose’ COVID-19 vaccine brand

Despite having been debunked by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque himself, a fake quote card continued to circulate on social media this week where the public official said the poor have no right to be fussy in picking the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine brand they will receive.

Beginning Jan. 12, several Facebook (FB) users published a graphic bearing a quote attributed to Roque. Juxtaposed with his photo, it read: “PAGKAIN NGA WALA SILANG PAMBILI, BAKUNA PA KAYA. HUWAG MAG-INARTE KASI MAHIRAP LANG KAYO AT PABIGAT KAYO SA GOBYERNO. Kasalanan niyo kung hanggang ngayon mahirap pa rin kayo, sa gobyerno niyo lahat inaasa ang pangangailangan ninyo. BAWAL ANG MAG-INARTE SA PANAHON NG PANDEMIC.”

(They don’t even have money to buy food, what more a vaccine? Don’t be fussy because you are just poor and you are a burden to the government. It’s your fault that you are poor up to now, you depend on the government for all your needs. Being fussy is not allowed at the time of a pandemic.)

This is fabricated. There are no official records or news reports of Roque making those remarks.

On Jan. 13, the presidential spokesperson on his official FB page decried the quote card as “fake,” and advised the public to “Think before you click.”

However, the falsified graphic continued to receive social media engagements more than a week since it was published. Among them was a Jan. 13 post by the FB page Samahang Magdalo Gensan ABC Chapter, that was shared by netizens up to Jan. 21.

The fake statement surfaced after Roque earned the public’s ire for a similar comment he made last Jan. 11. Asked if Filipinos can choose which vaccine from the government they will get, the spokesperson said the public may “waive” their right to receive the vaccine offered by the government, then remarked that Filipinos “cannot be choosy” because many need to get vaccinated.

There was no mention of the poor, however.

Roque made the remark over concerns about the government's procurement of 25 million doses of CoronaVac, developed by Chinese pharmaceutical Sinovac.

The vaccine candidate has not been given an emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, and a clinical trial in Brazil showed that the drug only had a 50.4% efficacy, which is low compared to the success rates of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine at 95% or Astrazeneca’s which averaged at 70%.

Apart from Samahang Magdalo Gensan ABC Chapter, which could have reached 39,000 people with its post according to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle, VERA Files Fact Check also flagged the fake quote card as having been republished by netizens in public FB groups NETIZENS AGAINST DICTATORSHIP, FEDERALISM AND COMMUNISM(PRO DEMOCRACY) and Sen Trillanes for a Better Philippines, and the page Bantay Nakaw Coalition.

Samahang Magdalo Gensan ABC Chapter was created on April 24, 2017, and Bantay Nakaw Coalition on March 2, 2017.

(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

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Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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