VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Roque distorts Robredo’s openness to appear with Duterte in proposed vaccine infomercial

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque twisted Vice President Leni Robredo’s positive reaction to a senator’s proposal for her to appear with President Rodrigo Duterte in an informative commercial (infomercial) to help boost public confidence in the vaccine against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

STATEMENT

During the May 26 Talk to the People broadcast, Roque told the president that Robredo “volunteered” to appear with him (Duterte) in a vaccine infomercial, noting that this came after she criticized the government’s inoculation program, particularly its preference for China-made vaccines. Roque said:

“ … I think ngayon po, ngayong napapakita natin na dumadami na ang nagbabakuna, eh bigla namang nag-volunteer gusto raw niyang um-appear (appear) sa infomercial kasama kayo. Sa loob-loob ko, matapos tayong siraan nang siraan eh ngayong nagiging matagumpay ang ating vaccination eh makikisama ngayon 'no.”

(“… I think now that we are able to show an increasing number of people getting vaccinated, she suddenly volunteered to appear in an infomercial with you. In my mind, after she relentlessly criticized us, now that our vaccination is succeeding, she wants to join us.”)

He added:

“ ... Ang sabi ko po eh I’m sure pag-aaralan ninyo kung anong kontribusyon na maibibigay ng partisipasyon ng ating Bise Presidente dahil alam naman po natin siya po ay isa sa pinakamaingay na kritiko sa lahat ng ating ginawa kasama dito sa vaccination. Although ang sabi po niya ‘fake news’ daw po 'yan, pero iniisa-isa ko po lahat ang sinabi na niya tungkol sa ating mga vaccination program.”

(“ … I said I’m sure you would study what contribution the vice president’s participation can give because we know that she is among the most vocal critics of everything we’re doing, including the vaccination [program]. Although she already dismissed this as ‘fake news,’ but I have looked at each of what she had said about our vaccination program.”)

Source: RTVMalacanang, Meeting on COVID-19 Concerns and Talk to the People on COVID-19 5/26/2021, May 26, 2021, watch from 1:23:41 to 1:24:24 (transcript)

Roque repeated in a May 27 press briefing that Robredo “volunteered” to do an infomercial with Duterte despite the statement of her spokesperson, Barry Gutierrez, that she merely agreed to a proposal by a lawmaker.

FACT

Contrary to Roque’s claim, Robredo did not volunteer but only expressed willingness to appear in a vaccine infomercial with Duterte in response to a proposal by Sen. Joel Villanueva.

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In a May 20 statement, Villanueva suggested that the president and vice president come out with a “joint public service announcement” to “convince” a large part of the population that the vaccines are safe and to counter the spread of disinformation, considering that both of them have been vaccinated.

"Ito po ang tambalang nakikita nating mabisa na pangontra sa mga (This is a partnership we see to be effective in combating) fake news. Both are vaccine recipients and are living proof that vaccines do no harm,” the lawmaker said.

Villanueva’s proposal was in response to the Department of Health’s (DOH) plan to enforce a “brand agnostic” policy in which the government would not disclose the vaccine brand available in vaccination centers to avoid overcrowding and to reduce vaccine hesitancy. DOH floated the plan after Duterte said on May 18 that Filipinos must not be “choosy” on which of the vaccine brands they prefer.

In the May 23 episode of her weekly radio show, Robredo took Villanueva’s proposal positively, saying she is “very open” to do an infomercial with Duterte if it can help boost public trust in the COVID-19 vaccines.

Robredo said:

“Open na open ako kung kailangan 'yan para makatulong sa (I’m very open if that is what’s needed to help [boost]) vaccine trust. Anytime ... sabihin lang sa 'kin kung anong gagawin ko, kelan, saan. (...just tell me what I have to do, when and where.)"

Soure: DZXL 858, BISERBISYONG LENI - 05/23/2021 - 9:00 A.M, May 23, 2021, watch from 32:27 to 32:43

Robredo noted that her office released a 6-minute, 49-second vaccine infomercial on Feb. 10 in which she encouraged the public to get vaccinated and answered some questions about vaccine developments and the government’s immunization program.

Further, Robredo dismissed as “fake news” her supposed opposition to CoronaVac, a China-made vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd. She said she was only asking the Duterte administration to properly secure regulatory recommendations for some 600,000 CoronaVac doses donated by China before these were used, and to communicate any information about the vaccine brand to the public to prevent confusion.

In February, Robredo supported the call of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) doctors and the Health Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 (HPAAC) for the government to first secure a “positive recommendation” for the donated CoronaVac jabs, just like what was required for the other brands, from the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC), an office under the DOH that “provide[s] technical guidance on the optimal use of health technologies.”

HPAAC and PGH doctors pointed out that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved CoronaVac for emergency use only for healthy persons aged 18 to 59, but not for healthcare workers who were exposed to COVID-19 patients in spite of being the top priority for COVID-19 vaccination.

HTAC, established under Republic Act 11223, or the Universal Healthcare Act of 2013, recommended on April 8 the use of CoronaVac, although the government had been using it since the rollout of the vaccination program on March 1. It was granted emergency use authorization on February 22 for priority sectors, including medical frontliners and persons with comorbidities following the approval of its use on healthcare workers by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

Both Duterte and Robredo have received their first of two COVID-19 vaccine doses. Robredo was vaccinated with AstraZeneca last May 19, while Duterte received his first dose of Sinopharm -- a still-unapproved vaccine in the Philippines -- last May 3.


Sources

RTVMalacanang, Meeting on COVID-19 Concerns and Talk to the People on COVID-19 5/26/2021, May 26, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque –, May 27, 2021

Statement of the vice president’s spokesperson

Senate of the Philippines, Press Release - Villanueva: DOH should adopt an 'educate before you inoculate' policy, May 20, 2021

CNN Philippines, Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje | The Source, May 19, 2021

DZXL 858, BISERBISYONG LENI - 05/23/2021 - 9:00 A.M, May 23, 2021

Vice President Leni Robredo official YouTube channel, Usapang Bakuna with VP Leni Robredo, Feb. 10, 2021

Sinovac Biotech Ltd, official website, Accessed May 30, 2021

DZXL 858, BISERBISYONG LENI - 02/28/2021 - 9:00 A.M, Feb. 28, 2021

PGH Physicians’ Association, [PGH PA STATEMENT ON THE PLANNED ROLL OUT OF SINOVAC COVID-19 VACCINE], Feb. 27, 2021

HPAAC, On Sinovac: Urging our Leaders to await HTAC review and recommendation — Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 Feb. 24, 2021

Health Technology Assessment Council, Mission/Vision, Accessed May 30, 2021

Food and Drug Administration, Sinovac Emergency Use Authorization, Accessed May 30, 2021

Official Gazette, Republic Act No. 11223

Health Technology Assessment Council, SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine (Vero Cell), Inactivated [CoronaVac] for the prevention of COVID-19, April 8, 2021

IATF approves Sinovac for healthcare workers

VP Leni Robredo official Facebook account, [Robredo vaccinated with AstraZeneca], May 19, 2021

Duterte gets vaccinated

Food and Drug Administration, List of FDA issued Emergency Use Authorization - Food and Drug Administration, Accessed June 3, 2021


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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