IBP: There is legal basis for transparency in vaccine plan despite public emergency
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presides over a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members prior to his talk to the people at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on January 18, 2021.
Presidential Photo/Simeon Celi

IBP: There is legal basis for transparency in vaccine plan despite public emergency

(Philstar.com) - January 19, 2021 - 10:47am

MANILA, Philippines — The Integrated Bar of the Philippines asserted that there is legal basis for the clamor of transparency in procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, even amid a state of public health emergency.

As speculations on overpricing hound the government’s purchase of vaccines, IBP president Domingo Egon Cayosa on Tuesday stressed “there is compelling legal basis for transparency, even under the COVID-19 emergency.”

“Transparency is helpful in establishing facts, dispelling doubts and suspicions, countering propaganda, minimizing political posturing, curbing corruption, promoting accountability, nurturing cooperation, and in enhancing trust in our country’s governance,”  Cayosa added in a statement.

He noted there are two provisions under the Constitution, Art. II Sec. 28 and Art. III Sec. 7, that the SC held as seeking to “promote transparency in policy-making and in the operations of the government.”

Art. II Sec.28 holds that “subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.” Art. III Sec. 7 meanwhile states that the “right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized,” and access to official records shall be given to citizens.

The IBP president also pointed out that President Rodrigo Duterte himself signed an executive order on July 23, 2016 that states that “there shall be a legal presumption in favor of access to information, public records and official records.”

Cayosa stressed: “It is good to let the people know more about the COVID-19 vaccines, the decisions to be made for them, and the public funds therefor.”

The Philippine government’s national vaccination program has been put under scrutiny in separate hearings at the Senate and House of Representatives since last week.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson has questioned the pricing of vaccines, noting that Indonesia and Thailand are able to acquire Sinovac at a much lower price than the price provided by the Department of Finance to the Senate committee on finance in 2019.

RELATED: 'Shadow of doubt': Galvez accused of contradicting himself on vaccine prices

Even with speculations on overpricing of vaccines, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque refused to disclose the price of Sinovac vaccines, only  promising that the cost under the Philippines’ deal “is not far from the price given to Indonesia, which is about P650 per dose.”

Duterte on Monday night meanwhile assured the public that money borrowed for the purchase of vaccines will not pass through the government as banks will be handing the money directly to the vaccine manufacturer. — Kristine Joy Patag

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