Secret Pentagon anti-vaccine Campaign in Philippines Tramples on Rights of People

Press Release
June 21, 2024

A recent investigation and report by Reuters, released on June 14, 2024, revealed a year-long covert propaganda campaign by the United States military to deter Filipinos from taking the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine Sinovac. The campaign ran from mid-2020 until mid-2021, and involved the creation of hundreds of fake social media profiles in an attempt to sway public opinion on the vaccine.

“The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) condemns in the strongest terms this anti-people campaign of the Pentagon,” said ICHRP Chairperson Peter Murphy in response. “To systematically mislead the people of the Philippines during one of the worst public health crises in the last century is a gross violation of the Filipino people’s collective right to life and peace.”

The Philippines was hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the worst virus-related death rate in Southeast Asia by mid-2021: 1.3 million cases and almost 24 thousand deaths. Vaccination rates were also particularly low, with less than 2% of the population vaccinated by mid-2021. The crisis was exacerbated by the militarist response of the Philippine government in implementing checkpoints and lockdowns throughout the country, rather than seriously investing in public health care measures.

“Because US pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer had the monopoly power to refuse supply of COVID-19 vaccines at an affordable price to the Philippines, the first vaccine they could obtain was Sinovac,” Murphy said. “And now we know the US military punished Filipinos for that.”

The fake social media accounts connected to the US propaganda program spread lies about the vaccine in an effort to stir up anti-Chinese sentiment among Filipinos. This strategy goes hand-in-hand with the broader push of the US and its allies to paint China as an enemy, and to justify their increasing military presence in the Philippines and in neighboring countries in Southeast Asia.

While the US increasingly boasts of “ironclad” commitment to the Philippines and feigns friendship with the Filipino people, this psy-op campaign exposes how the US tramples on the rights of the Filipino people for the sake of its geopolitical interests in Asia Pacific. The Reuters report is not only a reminder of the recent IPT’s exposure of the US role in war crimes in the Philippines and the treatment of poor and struggling Filipinos as collateral damage, but also a foreshadowing of how the US will use the Filipino people as cannon fodder in its provocation of war against China. 

“Public health and safety is not something to be toyed with in order to win political influence over a population,” continued Murphy. “The Filipino people have a right to determine their affairs without the meddling of the United States. ICHRP calls on the US military to withdraw from all spheres of influence in the Philippines, including its physical presence in and around the country in its aggressive preparations for war against China.”

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