[UPDATED] President Rodrigo Duterte said military men and the police force will be the first recipients of the vaccine that the government is expected to be shared by China, describing them as the “backbone” of his administration.

In an address to the nation on July 31, Duterte claimed that the country will be given top priority for a COVID-19 vaccine being developed in China. While he stated that the poorest and those already sick with the virus would be the first to receive the vaccine, he constantly emphasized that members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) will be the first to be vaccinated because they are the “backbone” of the administration.

“Itong mga military pobre ‘to. Mauuna rin kayo. My military, my police, because I need a strong backbone. The backbone of my administration is the uniformed men,” he said.

“Sa mga mayayaman, huwag niyo akong isipin kasi hindi ko rin kayo naisip,” he said.

He even stated that members of the New People’s Army (NPA) can also line up for a vaccine, belittling them in the process of having less superior military might.

“Even if you announce that you are an NPA, it’s ok. Pagamot ka muna, pa-vaccinate ka para humusay kang lumaban. [Bakit ako] ma[ta]takot sa inyo, wala naman kayong eroplano? Saranggola siguro meron. Wala kayong baroto, maski barko. Wala kayong mga jet, tapos matakot ako sa inyo? Blehhhh. Pero as a matter of humanity because it is not our money, and because you are Filipinos, ok lang sa akin,” he said.

Duterte did not state how medical personnel and health workers could avail of the vaccine. COVID-19 infections among medical staff continue to rise. Earlier today (July 31), Pasig City closed down four health centers after some staff tested positive for the virus. The city of Manila also temporarily closed on the same day after 15 medical workers tested positive.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.