Drilon, Lacson hit 'secrecy' of government’s vaccine procurement program

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 16 2022 07:50 PM

A health worker inoculates a homeless person with a COVID-19 booster shot along Scout Santiago Street in Quezon City on September 29, 2022. Along with the administration of COVID-19 vaccines, the DOH hopes to address other health concerns and issues of the homeless families such as malnutrition and routine immunization. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
A health worker inoculates a homeless person with a COVID-19 booster shot along Scout Santiago Street in Quezon City on September 29, 2022. Along with the administration of COVID-19 vaccines, the DOH hopes to address other health concerns and issues of the homeless families such as malnutrition and routine immunization. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News


MANILA — The Commission on Audit (COA) has the full responsibility to examine the government’s procurement of COVID-19 supplies, according to former Senate President Franklin Drilon.

Drilon’s statement was in reaction to COA’s statement that it cannot examine the government’s vaccine procurement because of the "Non-Disclosure Agreement" that officials of the previous administration signed with vaccine manufacturers.

Drilon, a former Justice Secretary, stated that COA’s mandate to watch government spending is stated in the 1987 Constitution.

“Yes, all the COVID supply purchases should be subject to COA audit. This is an obligation imposed by the Constitution on COA. The NDA cannot be cited to prevent an audit and full public disclosure of how public funds were spent,” he said.

“Should PS-DBM, as the purchasing agent, refuse to give COA access to the documents, COA can refuse to approve the expenses, and consider the amounts unliquidated," he added.

Former Sen. Panfilo Lacson also believes that the government’s vaccine procurement program must be audited as a matter of public interest.

“There are hundreds of billions of reasons to audit the government procured vaccines, especially after the issues that we repeatedly raised in the last Congress have not yet been answered concerning the grossly overpriced Chinese brand vaccine Sinovac compared to the other brands like AstraZeneca, Moderna and even the US brand Pfizer that SFA Teddy Boy Locsin had earlier booked but ignored by the DOH,” Lacson, in a separate statement, said.

Lacson said the NDA reasoning may be a “cover up” for the “unconscionable misuse of public funds at a time when our economy was already taking a beating because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He said all these undertakings must be looked into, given what has been uncovered by Senate investigations where test kits, machines and even face masks were supposedly overpriced.

“The new administration should pursue and resolve this matter to its logical conclusion. The Filipino people deserve no less,” Lacson said.

In a statement, the Department of Health (DOH) said it welcomes any inquiries by Congress.

"The DOH is ready to coordinate and comply with the COA's auditing process and provide all required documents available to the DOH in accordance with existing laws, considering that the execution of COVID-19 vaccine negotiations and procurement also involves other agencies like the NTF, DOF, and DFA, pursuant to DOH-NTF JAO 2021-0001 or the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 11525, otherwise known as the COVID-19 Vaccination Law," DOH said.

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