Home Asia Lawmakers In Philippines Push For Probe Into Pentagon’s Anti-Vax Propaganda Operation

Lawmakers In Philippines Push For Probe Into Pentagon’s Anti-Vax Propaganda Operation

Philippines, US, Probe, Anti-Vax, Propaganda Operation
FILE PHOTO: Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr delivers a keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore, May 31, 2024. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

Lawmakers in the Philippines are seeking an investigation into the Pentagon’s propaganda operation. The operation aimed to cast doubt among Filipinos about China’s vaccines during the height of the pandemic.

Philippines president’s sister calls for probe

Philippine Senator Imee Marcos and House Representative France Castro have filed resolutions in Congress this week to initiate the probe. Marcos chairs the foreign relations committee.

A Reuters investigation detailed how the Pentagon ran a campaign in 2020 and 2021. This operation looked to denigrate the Sinovac vaccine and other pandemic aid from China.

The effort was intended to counter China’s growing geopolitical sway around the globe, especially Southeast Asia.

It began under former President Donald Trump and ended months after President Joseph Biden took office.

Possible breach of international law?

The Senate inquiry is intended to examine Reuters findings and “determine the ramifications of the actions of the US military.”

It will see if there was any potential breach of international law by the US. It will also see if there is any possible legal recourse available to the Philippines.

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The resolution comes from Marcos, sister of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. She says “such (an) anti-vax and misinformation campaign threatens national security.”

Defence official acknowledges Washington’s role in campaign

A Defense Department official acknowledged the US military engaged in propaganda to disparage China’s vaccines. But he declined to provide details. The official said new policies and controls had been put in place, following an internal review in 2021. This would block similar operations in the future.

Senator Marcos said she was motivated to investigate the matter. This was because it put the lives of Filipinos at risk.

At the time of the secret U.S. military operation, the primary vaccine option in the Philippines was China’s Sinovac inoculation. The Philippines suffered the worst COVID infection rates in the region.

Some American public health experts say the propaganda program endangered lives. Daniel Lucey, an infectious disease specialist at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine said. “I don’t think it’s defensible.”

A Sinovac spokesperson also decried the US military campaign saying stigmatizing vaccination will lead to a series of consequences. This would include a lower inoculation rate, the outbreak and spread of disease, social panic and insecurity.

With inputs from Reuters