Immunity with impunity, PSG-style | Inquirer Opinion
Human Face

Immunity with impunity, PSG-style

/ 05:06 AM December 31, 2020

Nowhere in the world but in the Philippines in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic have the words impunity and immunity become like horse and carriage, no thanks to those who feign not knowing the difference. But I am getting ahead of myself.

I own a T-shirt with the words “STOP impunity” on it, the stop icon taking the place of the letter O in STOP. In small letters on the back is “Coalition for the International Criminal Court” I had worn it a number of times but not lately even to the grocery, because people with Covidphobia might misread “impunity” as immunity or lest I get dagger looks from the reading-challenged. The recent Inquirer editorial on why Juan and Juana can’t read came to mind. But that is another story.

I was about to put the T-shirt in the Segunda Mana box but on second thought, maybe not. The wearer might get harassed. For why stop immunity? But impunity, yes indeed.


Impunity means being exempted from punishment or from the consequences of an action that could be punishable. Like getting away with murder. In Filipino, walang parusa. Impunity could also mean committing crime but the criminal seems immune from punishment for various reasons—power, connections, wealth, stealth. And for those sitting in high places, immunity from suit.


Only one letter spells the difference between one and the other. There is really not a world of difference between them for those who flaunt the law. But immunity in the medical sense is another story which men in uniform closely protecting the President—his health included, they aver—must have equated with immunity from being investigated for allegedly dealing in contraband vaccines.

Impunity is the cry of justice advocates against those who get away with murder most foul, the most recent of which was committed by an irate policeman with a record against his neighbors and witnessed and even recorded by minors with their cell phones.

The “I” word is the red flag raised continuously by human rights advocates against unpunished crimes by government elements while President Duterte repeatedly assures men in uniform that he has their backs.

And so it is no surprise that members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) had themselves vaccinated with a Sinopharm anti-COVID-19 vaccine from China despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved any vaccine from anywhere. Despite the President not knowing about it. Despite Customs not knowing about it. Despite the military and police top brass not knowing about it. Despite health authorities and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) against COVID-19 not knowing about it. It all happened under the radar, so to speak.

In a TV interview, PSG commander Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III said that vaccinating President Duterte’s close-in guards was a way to protect him from the virus but that the President did not know about it. Really, now. The PSG is composed of men from the military, police, and the coast guard.

He added that they had made their own research and the vaccine they got was “one of the safest, I could say.” How it all came about, “’di ko masabi (I can’t say), someday you will find out.” Someday he should flagellate himself.


The President’s spox Harry Roque pooh-poohed the case and said the vaccine was a “token” that was “of not much value.” Did I hear Health Secretary Francisco Duque III say that they did not think much of it, that the vaccine was a free gift and therefore not for the anti-graft investigators to spend time on?

While some hole-in-the-wall clinics run by Chinese nationals for their kith have been raided because of making anti-COVID-19 vaccines available—by smuggling, I suppose—there is not much furor in the executive department about the PSG’s shadowy acquisition and vaccination process.

Flummoxed, baffled, and bewildered, health experts so vigilant and precise in their field must be scratching their heads. Now the FDA and Customs said they will investigate even while Malacañang sticks to the line that the “donated” vaccine used by the PSG did not violate the graft law.

So there, immunity with impunity, PSG-style.

What a year 2020 has been. May 2021 be drenched with hope, gentle “like the dewfall.”

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TAGS: COVID-19 vaccines, Human Face, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, Presidential Security Group, PSG, Rodrigo Duterte, VIP vaccination

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