Spokesman says Duterte thinks senators 'war-like' in COVID-19 vaccine probe; Sotto says 'imbento!"

Jamaine Punzalan and Robert Mano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 20 2021 01:09 PM | Updated as of Jan 20 2021 02:13 PM

Spokesman says Duterte thinks senators 'war-like' in COVID-19 vaccine probe; Sotto says 'imbento!" 1
President Rodrigo Duterte discusses matters with Senate President Vicente Sotto III and other lawmakers at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on Sept. 16, 2020. King Rodriguez, Presidential Photo/File ​

MANILA— President Rodrigo Duterte is puzzled over why senators were "war-like" as they looked into the government's vaccination drive against COVID-19, his spokesman said on Wednesday. 

Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., who had attended the Senate hearings, recently told Duterte he no longer wanted to join the probe because "he has lost about 2 weeks worth of negotiations with drug suppliers," said the President's spokesman Harry Roque. 

Duterte answered “no, go to the Senate, continue answering questions,” Roque told CNN Philippines.

“‘If they become abusive to you verbally, just stand up and leave. And if they cite you in contempt, I will come and fetch you,'” Duterte told Galvez, as Roque quoted. 

“But certainly, if they start being abusive, just walk out.” 

Asked if Duterte felt that lawmakers behaved this way during the last 2 hearings, Roque said "Certainly." 

"He could not understand that the demeanor of the senators were apparently bellicose-like, they were war-like. And of course, there was like already an attitude as if there was corruption going, when it was fact-finding in fact,” said Roque.

"The President thought you know, despite the separation of powers, and despite the power of oversight, it does not give the senators the license to be abusive," he added. 

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he "painstakingly stayed [in the hearing] for 9 hours and I do not recall any of that sort he was talking about." 

"I wonder if Sec Roque watched the hearing for 9 hrs. Tell me when, what time and who was war-like or even was shouting to any of the resource persons. Imbento!" he told ABS-CBN News in a text message. 

The executive and legislative branches are "both looking for what is for the greater good of the people," said Sotto.

"So he should not drum up situations that never happened," he added.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

Galvez and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III will attend the next hearing if it pushes through this week, Roque said. 

The head of the inoculation efforts also suggested that senators sign a confidentiality disclosure agreement with pharmaceutical groups so they could get more information on the COVID-19 shots, said the Palace spokesman. 

"He’s (Galvez) of the opinion that everything will turn out okay because all the questions have been answered, and that there may have been miscommunication somewhere down the line," he said. 

"I think there will be informal discussions, I’ve heard. And let’s see what happens." 

Galvez earlier Tuesday said negotiations for vaccines are covered by confidentiality agreements, which prevent authorities from divulging prices to the public. 

"Maaari pong mawala sa atin ang 148 million doses ng nine-negotiate po natin sa vaccine companies kapag lumabag po tayo sa ating kasunduan," he told reporters in an online briefing.

(We can lose the 148 million doses that we are negotiating with vaccine companies if we violate the agreement.)

The government "will always try to negotiate for vaccines that are safe, effective and cost-efficient," said Galvez, who is also the Chief Implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19.

"Wala pong korapsyon," said the former military general.

(There is no corruption.) 

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