Vaccine czar apologizes for saying Senate probe is politicized

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 21 2021 04:27 PM | Updated as of Jan 21 2021 04:41 PM

Senators Migz Zubiri and Francis Tolentino in a light moment with Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello and vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr., during hybrid plenary session break Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. Senate PRIB/File

MANILA — An official leading the country's inoculation drive apologized on Thursday for his previous statement that a Senate inquiry into the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines was being used for politics. 

Some senators had questioned the procurement of a vaccine from China that was reportedly more expensive and less effective than other candidates. Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said he signed a deal with vaccine manufacturers preventing him from divulging prices. 

But Galvez said he had a recent dinner meeting with senators during which he gave them "indicative prices."

"Nakita rin nila na iyong potential gains natin ay umabot pa ng more or less $1 billion. Talagang nakita nila iyong talagang ginagawa natin ay may due diligence, and very prudent," he said in a public briefing. 

(They saw that our potential gains reached more or less $1 billion. They saw that what we are doing have due diligence, and is very prudent.)

He thanked senators for understanding that the non-disclosure agreement on vaccine prices is "very binding."

“Mayroon din akong pagkukulang at iyong aking akusasyon na ginagamit iyong pulitika sa Senado, iyong hearing—ako po ay nagkamali. And I want to make an apology on that," he said. 

(I also have shortcomings and my accusation that the Senate, hearing is being used for politics—I was wrong.)

Galvez expects that his participation in next Senate vaccine hearing will be "very cordial," he said. 

"Mali po iyong balita na magwa-walk out po ako. Talagang ano po iyon, hindi tama po," he said 

(News that I will walk out is wrong. That is not right.)

President Rodrigo Duterte had thought senators were "abusive" during the hearing and gave Galvez permission to "just stand up and leave" the hearings, said Palace spokesman Harry Roque. 

"Ang sinabi ko po dito (what I said here is) it’s a specific instruction from the President. But I never said anyone walked out, and I never said anyone will walk out," Roque said in a briefing on Thursday. 

Senate President Vicente Sotto III has denied the supposed aggression from senators.

"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.

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