MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte is not assailing a law for COVID-19 vaccine procurement that he signed, his spokesman said on Wednesday, clarifying the Chief Executive's recent remark on compensation for adverse side effects from the drug.
Duterte on Monday said it was "illegal" for the government to shoulder the compensation of those who would suffer adverse effects from COVID-19 shots that the private sector procured.
This is despite a law that he signed in February which obliged the government to pay for indemnity for vaccine side effects.
"Hindi niya po kinukuwestiyon iyong batas na nilagdaan niya ‘no pero ang kinukuwestiyon niya talaga iyong pagpupumilit ng iba na rekta [ang pagbili ng bakuna] pero bahala ang gobyerno managot," said the President's spokesman Harry Roque.
"Hindi naman yata tama iyon," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(He is not questioning the law that he signed, but rather, he is questioning some people's insistence to buy vaccines directly, but hold the government liable. That is not right.)
Private companies can buy coronavirus vaccines through a tripartite deal in which the government would be liable for side effects, said Roque.
"Malinaw na malinaw po iyong sinabi ni Presidente ‘no, hindi pupuwede na bibili ang private sector sa labas ng tripartite agreement habang wala pang general use," he said.
(What the President said is very clear, the private sector cannot procure vaccines outside of the tripartite deal while none is for general use yet.)
"Kung talagang gusto nilang diretso na walang gobyerno, eh kung pupuwede bayaan mo sila. Pero ‘pag mayroong side effect iyan, mananagot iyong private, hindi ang gobyerno... Hindi pupuwede na diretso kayong bibili, hindi kasama ang gobyerno and yet gusto ninyong managot ang gobyerno."
(If they really want to buy directly without the government, if it's allowed, let them. But if there are side effects, the private sector will be liable, not the government. You should not buy without the government, and yet want the government to be responsible.)
A second "context" in Duterte's statement is that some manufacturers want "absolutely" no liability over the vaccines, said Roque.
"Kaya din ang sabi ni Presidente, hindi rin pupuwede iyon ‘no doon sa mga vaccine manufacturers, maski hindi na tayo makakuha ng bakuna sa kanila," said the spokesman.
"Sa batas kasi natin, walang pananagutan ang manufacturer basta walang willful neglect at saka iyong gross negligence ‘no."
(That's why the President also said that is not allowed, even to the point that we don't get vaccines from them. In our law, the manufacturer would have no liability as long as there is no willful neglect and gross negligence.)
Battling a surge in coronavirus infections, the government aims to vaccinate up to 70 million people or two-thirds of the population this year.
The Philippines has received delivery of 1 million China-donated COVID-19 shots from Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech, and 525,600 AstraZeneca doses through vaccine-sharing COVAX Facility.