Bataraza mayor Abraham Ibba has formally justified his vaccination, stating it was part of the local Municipal Health Office’s (MHO) efforts for health frontliners to agree to the vaccination program.

According to his lawyer Atty. John Mark Caralipio, Ibba heeded the MHO’s invitation to encourage the locals to get their COVID-19 vaccines, especially those listed as priority recipients.

“Siya ay hinikayat ng ating MHO na pangunahan ang kanilang ceremonial vaccination. Ito ay dahil sa Bataraza, nagkalat ang mga fake news at misinformation sa social media ukol sa COVID-19 vaccine. Nakita na mayroong confusion among his constituents. Itong ating MHO ay nag-effort na kumbinsihin ang mayor upang makumbinsi ang mga tao na suportahan ang vaccination campaign,” Caralipio said in an interview Monday.

Ibba also defended his vaccination in an earlier interview with Palawan News, stating that he is also a frontliner because he oversees town checkpoints. He added that it was also to encourage other health workers in the town to get vaccinated.

Ibba, who received his AstraZeneca vaccine on March 22, submitted formal explanation to the provincial Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) through his legal team on Monday.

Ibba, along with four other mayors – Alfred Romualdez of Tacloban City, Dibu Tuan of T’boli, South Cotabato, Sulpicio Villalobos of Sto. Nino, South Cotabato, and Noel Rosal of Legazpi City – were ordered by the DILG to explain why they were vaccinated despite not being medical frontliners, which are at the top of the Department of Health’s (DOH) priority list.

Aside from the show-cause order, the DILG warned public officials who received the vaccines ahead of health workers face they could face sanctions. On March 24, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered four more mayors to explain why they received their COVID-19 vaccines ahead of the priority list.

Caralipio added that they are sure that they will receive a positive response from the DILG.

“Wala naman siyang intensyon na labagin ang IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) resolution o kung anuman ang polisiya ng ating gobyerno,” he added.