Self-preservation is the most basic instinct, and a primordial consideration amid the raging pandemic. Members of the Presidential Security Group are not unique in having this instinct. Self-preservation is a day-to-day, round-the-clock challenge for all health frontliners whose work puts them in close-quarters combat with the deadly coronavirus. Many of them have lost their lives in this war.

Even health frontliners, however, understand that one cannot jump the line when a reliable vaccine comes around. They understand that there are protocols, rules and laws to be followed in the procurement and use of COVID-19 vaccines. This is for their own safety and that of the patients whom they care for, and for the safety of society in general.

If no reliable regulator would vet vaccines, and if there is no professional medical supervision of their use, how can anyone be sure that they work? If they don’t, then the recipients remain vulnerable to COVID infection and transmission – putting at risk their patients, their colleagues, families and the general public – and, in the case of the PSG, their principal the President. That would constitute reckless, irresponsible endangerment of the nation’s top official.

And if anyone can freely bring unregistered vaccines into the country – “smuggled” was the word used by the secretary of defense himself – the Bureau of Customs should just close shop, and everyone should just order a vaccine online, first come, first served.

In many countries, there is deep distrust of vaccines – especially those produced in a rush and given emergency use authorization. Winning public trust is critical in ensuring the success of vaccination programs that would end this calamitous pandemic. Secrecy and lies, particularly from men in uniform, can only aggravate vaccine hesitancy. Trust is a casualty in the secrecy that now shrouds the vaccination of PSG members as early as September last year.

President Duterte warned the Senate against proceeding with its probe of the PSG vaccination, lamenting that military careers would be ruined and no useful legislation would come out of the probe. If there is nothing wrong with the vaccination and the PSG members actually deserve commendation, according to the Malacañang narrative, why would their careers be ruined if they announce to the world the truth about their heroic deed? The PSG members were warned against self-incrimination before investigators. If there is nothing wrong, why would the truth be incriminating? What is there to hide?