Palace questions Senate goal in COVID-19 vaccine probe


Posted at Jan 19 2021 03:41 PM

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Malacañang on Tuesday questioned the Senate's motive in probing the country's COVID-19 vaccination drive, even as a lawmaker already denied political agenda in the inquiry. 

Some lawmakers had questioned the country's preference for he reportedly pricier and less effective vaccine from China's Sinovac during recent Senate hearings. They also pressed vaccine czar Carlito Galvez to disclose the price of the shots.

"Hindi lang po maisip talaga ng Palasyo kung anong gagawin nilang batas dito," said Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque. 

(The Palace just can't think what law they would craft from this.)

Negotiations for COVID-19 vaccines are covered by a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA), preventing authorities from baring their prices for now, said Galvez. 

"Kung tutol po sila (mga mababatas) sa CDA, baka gumawa po sila ng batas na ipinagbabawal ang CDA. 'Pag nangyari po iyon, wala nang magbebenta ng gamot sa atin sa Pilipinas," said Roque, a lawyer. 

(If lawmakers oppose the CDA, they might make a law banning CDAs. If that happens, no one will sell medicine to us in the Philippines.)

Lawmakers leading the vaccine probe have a "mandate to demand transparency and accountability from our chief implementers on how they plan to use public funds," Sen. Panfilo Lacson earlier said. 

"Walang pulitika sa pagdinig na ito... We call it oversight, or check-and-balance, if you will, being exercised by a co-equal branch of government," he said in a privilege speech last week. 

(There is no politics in this hearing.)

"It is indeed unfortunate that the Senate is being dragged as a scapegoat by projecting the narrative that this inquiry is being used as an avenue for political agenda," he added. 

The Philippines aims to begin immunization next month, hoping to inoculate 70 million people, or two-thirds of its population, this year.
The governments hopes to secure supply deals for 148 million doses this January. It has firmed up supply deals with China's Sinovac, US-based Pfizer, Novavax, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Russia's Gamaleya Institute, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez earlier said.