MANILA - Sen. Leila de Lima on Wednesday hit Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. for asking China for an unregistered drug against the coronavirus, saying the act was "conflict of interest at best and treason at worst."
Santos earlier wrote to the Chinese Embassy in Manila seeking help to purchase 5 boxes of Carrimycin tablets- the same medicine that allegedly "helped" in his recovery from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)- for his friends. The letter was withdrawn after it went viral.
"Asking for a non-Food and Drug Administration-approved medicine to give to his friends is wrong in so many levels," De Lima said in a statement.
"For him to owe a debt of gratitude to any foreign entity is a conflict of interest at best and treason at worst," she said..
"Kailangan natin ng armed forces chief na hindi nabibili ng sinuman, lalo na ng mga dayuhan," she said.
(We need an Armed Forces chief who cannot be bought, especially by foreigners.)
Santos' letter came to light just days after the Philippines filed a new diplomatic protest against China over acts in the disputed South China Sea, including pointing a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship in February.
China is claiming nearly all of the resource-rich waters, encroaching into the Philippines' exclusive economic zone. It has ignored a 2016 UN-backed tribunal's ruling invalidating its expansive claims.
"We are in the middle of a territorial tension against China, and our Armed Forces and our country need an assurance that the integrity and loyalty of our Chief of Staff is beyond question," De Lima said.
The senator said Santos' letter to the Chinese Embassy in Manila also violated several medical and anti-graft laws.
"First of all, solicitation of personal favors by public officials is a violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act," she said.
"Second, dispensation of medicine by a non-licensed individual is illegal practice of medicine in violation of the Medical Act," she said of the drug that has not been locally approved.
"Even doctors who prescribe non-FDA approved medicines are in danger of losing their license."
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier appealed for understanding for Santos, saying the AFP chief may have written the letter after he "suffered anguish and distress" during his bout with COVID-19.
"Wala naman siyang kasalanan na nag-violate ng regulation or imperiled our national security. Kaya we will let the matter rest na, kasi he already admitted and he explained to me the reason why he did it," Lorenzana said.
(He did not violate any regulation or imperiled our national security. So we will let the matter rest already because he already admitted and he explained to me the reason why he did it.)
"I-consider natin 'yung experience ni Gen. Santos. Siya ay na-infect ng deadly virus at 'yung specter ng pagkamatay ay nandiyan. He suffered anguish and distress," he added.
(Let's consider the experience of Gen. Santos. He was infected with the deadly virus and the possibility of death was there. He suffered anguish and distress.)