Isko proposes purchase of COVID-19 meds, not face shields

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 06 2021 06:35 PM

But Palace says Manila mayor is a 2022 candidate

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno speaks to Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque during a ceremonial launch of the vaccination program for seafarers at the Palacio de Maynila in Manila on June 17, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File 
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno speaks to Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque during a ceremonial launch of the vaccination program for seafarers at the Palacio de Maynila in Manila on June 17, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File 

MANILA — The government should buy medicines to treat COVID-19, instead of face shields, last year's procurement of which is facing a Senate inquiry for alleged overpricing, Manila City Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso said Monday.

His suggestion for authorities to prioritize the procurement of remdesivir and tocilizumab for COVID-19 patients, however, got this response from Palace and IATF spokesman Harry Roque: "Kaibigan ko po itong si Yorme (Moreno), pero gaya po ni VP (Vice President Leni Robredo), kandidato rin po 'yan." 

(Yorme is my friend. But like VP, he is a candidate, too.)

Both Domagoso and Robredo have yet to announce their 2022 plans ahead of the October filing of candidacies. 

For Domagoso, face shields should be limited to hospital use. 

"Wag natin i-require ang tao. Wala na nga tayo nabibigay na trabaho, pinagagastos pa natin ang tao. Wala naman science,"
he told reporters. 

(Let us not require it from the public. We cannot give them jobs, and yet we're asking them to spend money. There is no science behind it.)

"Tayo na lang sa buong Pilipinas, o sa buong mundo. I mean, magaling ba tayo sa kanila? Ayun pala, bilyon-bilyon ang gagastusin natin," the mayor said. 

(We are the only ones in the Philippines, or in the world doing this. I mean, are we better than them? It even turns out we have spent billions for it.)

A COVID-19 survivor, Domagoso appealed, "Gamot na muna, kesa plastic. ‘Yon ang bilhin natin." 

(Let us buy medicines first before that plastic.) 

Some senators have asked why some anti-coronavirus masks and face shields purchased by government using the P42 billion fund of the health department that was transferred to the budget department last year appear to be overpriced at P27 and P122 each, respectively. 

But no less than President Rodrigo Duterte denied these were overpriced, while his spokesman rejected insinuations of a supposed link between the mandatory use of face shields and alleged corruption in government's procurement of said item, and said personal protective equipment sets purchased by the previous administration were costlier.

Over the weekend, Robredo slammed Roque's "lame attempt" to divert public attention away from the Senate inquiry on pandemic deals by bringing up the previous administration's purchases. 

"Hindi pa po nag-aanunsyo 'yan, pero sigurado po ako kandidato, kaya asahan natin itong mga ganitong salita dahil kinakailangan nilang ligawan ang mga mamamayan," Roque said of Domagoso and Robredo in a press briefing on Monday.

(They have yet to announce that, but I am sure they will be candidates, so let us expect this kind of remark because they need to woo the people.) 

Roque acknowledged though that the local stock of anti-inflammatory drug tocilizumab used by patients with severe COVID-19 is running low due to "world supply problem."

"Wala po tayong magagawa d'yan dahil hindi naman natin mina-manufacture 'yan," he said. 

(We cannot do anything about that because we do not manufacture that.) 

He said authorities are looking for an alternative for this drug. The supply of remdesivir meanwhile is stable, he added. 

Domagoso was elected last month as the new president of Aksyon Demokratiko, fueling speculation he is supposedly positioning himself for the upcoming presidential race.

Robredo, meanwhile, chairs the Liberal Party and is being encouraged by some sectors to run for President next year.