Court Summons Duque, Vergeire

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A QUEZON City trial court judge ordered on Friday Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd and spokesman Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire to attend a 2 p.m. videoconference hearing set on Tuesday in connection with a petition seeking to stop the vaccination of those ages 5 to 11 against Covid-19.

This comes as Public Attorney's Office (PAO) chief Persida Rueda-Acosta told The Manila Times that she would personally serve as counsel of petitioners Dominic Almelor of Quezon City and Girlie Samonte of Tondo, Manila.

Also ordered to attend the hearing on the application for a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction are the Office of the Solicitor General and the Department of Health's (DoH) Public Health Services Team.

With a panel of public attorneys, Rueda-Acosta said she would be the lead counsel of Almelor and Samonte.

“We will do our best to convince the court the need to stop this pediatric jab rollout for being unconstitutional and null and void,” she said.

Rueda-Acosta said that “parental consent forms are required for all minors who will be vaccinated and that extra measures have been taken to ensure their safety.”

She said the DoH's statement was negated by its own memorandum, signed by Vergeire, stating that “in case the parent or guardian refuses to give consent to the vaccination despite the desire and willingness of the minor child to have himself/herself vaccinated or there are no persons that may legally exercise parental authority over the child, the State may act as 'parens patria' and give the necessary consent.”

The PAO chief believed that the particular portion of the memorandum would create the possibility of Covid-19 vaccination done against the will of parents or guardians even though no law has been passed making such vaccination mandatory and even without intervention.

“This is a forced Covid-19 vaccination,” Rueda-Acosta said.

The petitioners had claimed that the DoH memorandum issued on Jan. 24, 2022, “Interim Guidelines on the Management and Administration of Tozinameran Covid-19 mRNA vaccine (nucleoside-modified) [Cominarty] Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccine to Pediatric Population Aged 5-11 Years Old,” was unlawful.

The State may be represented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or its counterparts from the local government units, according to the memorandum.

“While the memorandum made mention of informed consent, it likewise allows consent to be given by the DSWD or their local counterparts in lieu of the parents'/guardians' consent when the latter refuse but the children assent to the vaccination,” Rueda-Acosta said.

The petitioners said the memorandum completely disregards the right of a parent or guardian to decide on the interest, well-being, life and health of the child.

Rueda-Acosta has reiterated that the petition was not meant to demean the efforts of President Rodrigo Duterte in trying to control the coronavirus pandemic but “to guide him in saving the lives of Filipino children and acting in their best interest, and protect them from undue experimentation without their parents'/guardians' consent.”

At the same time, she said her agency should not be misinterpreted as being “anti-vaccination” because it has been all-out in supporting the government's Covid-19 measures, including inoculation.

But the DoH must “respect one's choice on matters concerning life and health especially if it involves a very vulnerable portion of the population and especially considering the uncertainties in the safety and efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines as recognized by the law (RA 11525) itself,” she said.

Almelor, a broadcast journalist and the father of a 7-year-old, said he did not want his child to receive a Covid-19 shot because he was concerned for his safety and health.

“Everyone knows that Covid-19 only came about in December 2019 — a little over two years ago, and mass vaccination programs only started in December 2020 — a little over one year ago, and I am aware that Covid-19 vaccines are merely granted EUAs (emergency use authorizations),” he said.

“It is very clear to Almelor that he cannot go after anyone on matters relating to the danger of the vaccine if his son suffers adverse effects; this is a risk he is not willing to take,” she said.

“His son cannot expect to know of the experimental nature of the Covid-19 vaccine and its possible adverse effects,” the PAO chief said.

“I do not want my children to be experimented on, just like what happened to my son MJ. Covid-19 vaccines are new because the pandemic only started in 2019-2020,” Samonte said.

Samonte said that after inoculation with Dengvaxia, MJ's health deteriorated.

In September 2017, MJ lost his appetite causing him to gradually lose weight. His demeanor also changed, and he became hotheaded.

She said they found out that MJ had meningitis and had to be restrained so he could not hurt himself.

Rueda-Acosta said Samonte “fears for the life not only of MJ but of Shane as well, as other Dengvaxia recipients who experienced the same physical manifestations after receiving Dengvaxia eventually died.