MANILA – At least three senators on Monday said they believe vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. is "clear" of any wrongdoing in his duty to procure COVID-19 vaccines for the government's inoculation program amid concerns over the choice of vaccines and alleged overpricing.
Senate President Tito Sotto, chairman of Senate committee of the whole which tackled the government's inoculation roadmap, said he is confident transactions entered into by Galvez's team would be aboveboard.
Asked if Galvez and other vaccine officials can be categorized as "off-the-hook" against any possible lapses or perceived overpricing of the vaccine, Sotto said: "Yes. Safeguards are in place... They had nothing to do with the original proposed prices that never was."
The panel is currently drafting its report, in aid of legislation.
Galvez, he said, also assured the Senate of giving them regular updates over the matter.
"We will be updated every step of the way," Sotto said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who earlier criticized Galvez because of the Sinovac deal, also cleared the vaccine czar of any possible wrongdoing.
"As shared by many senators, I have no reason to doubt Sec. Galvez’s integrity, although some unverified reports that some shenanigans working behind the scene might have fed the DOH the unreasonably high price of the Sinovac vaccine could lend credence to the attempt to dupe the Filipino taxpayers even during a pandemic," Lacson said.
The price point of Sinovac vaccines that the Department of Health previously showed to the Senate was from a news report the DOH found in a Google search, Health Secretary Francisco Duque admitted last week.
Meanwhile, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who belongs to the minority bloc, also agreed with Lacson and Sotto's assessment of Galvez.
"I share the observations regarding Sec. Galvez. So, in large part pag i-average out natin yung performance nila... nasagot naman niya yung aming mga tanong, at nag-iwan ng isang commitment na aming panghahawakan sa pag-rollout ng vaccination program," Hontiveros said.
Galvez had earlier denied reports of "kickbacks" on the government's vaccine procurement deals, saying such accusations are "hurtful."
–With a report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News