By Sydney Antoinette Alipao and Archie Villaflores

PHOTO: Manila Bulletin/PCOO

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he was of two minds whether or not he will accept the excuse of local executives who had received COVID-19 vaccine doses even though they are not medical frontliners.

Duterte said this after several mayors were issued by Department of Interior  and Local Government (DILG) of a show cause order to have their explanation on why they got COVID-19 jabs even the government has yet to complete its inoculation of some 1.7 million medical personnel.

"Ang sabi nila, ito yung mga rason nila, I think that is the universal excuse na para di matakot ang mag constituents. Well, ako medyo gray area yan," Duterte said during his pre-recorded address Wednesday night.

"Dapat talaga ang una... Whether or not  the jumping of COVID-19 line of vaccination would require certain amount of a legal study," he added.

"If the purpose is to really show to the constituents that [the vaccine] is safe, hindi ko maano masyado, I see that there is a gray area there," Duterte said.

The DILG earlier sent a show cause order to the following mayors:

- Mayor Alfred Romualdez of Tacloban City, Leyte
- Mayor Dibu Tuan of T’boli, South Cotabato
- Mayor Sulpicio Villalobos of Sto. Nino, South Cotabato
- Mayor Noel Rosal of Legazpi City, Albay
- Mayor Abraham Ibba of Bataraza, Palawan

Duterte also mentioned that the following local chief executives were also administered vaccine doses ahead of medical frontline workers:

- Mayor Elenito Pena of Minglanilla, Cebu
- Mayor Victoriano Torres III of Alicia, Bohol
- Mayor Virgilio Mendez of San Miguel, Bohol
- Mayor Arturo "Jed" Piollo II of Lila, Bohol

The President said he had been warned by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the country might lose its vaccine donations through COVAX Facility if the prioritization list is not being complied with.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, meanwhile, said the DILG had the “jurisdiction” to send orders against mayors who got vaccine shots.

However, Duterte said Duque’s subordinates were also responsible for the issues of priority listing, adding the Department of Health (DOH) must investigate the matter.

"If you do not follow the list of priority you might lose the assistance of the WHO. It is quite clear to us," Duterte said.

"Ultimate person responsible for this are the city health workers, provincial health workers.”

"To make the long story short, execute an affidavit on the result of investigation and then send it to the Ombudsman," he told Duque.

Furthermore, Duterte said he was supposed to get shots but instead, he had to “wait.”

"Kasi nga nung una sinasabi, magpaturok ako, dapat ako ang mauna. They forgot na ako yung sa mga, yung category ko, hindi na nga kailangan eh, hayaan na lang kami. So I had to wait," Duterte said in apparent reference to his being a senior.

On the other hand, the City of Tacloban said in a statement that Romualdez only volunteered to get vaccinated in a bid to bolster the vaccine confidence among their constituents.

“We would like to state for the record that Mayor Romualdez volunteered to be publicly vaccinated with Sinovac vaccine in order to boost confidence in the vaccination program of the government," the statement said.