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Galvez, Duque told by Duterte to walk out of Senate hearing if 'verbally abused' — Palace
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez Jr. and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III join a meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) presided over by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on May 28, 2020.
Presidential photo/Ace Morandante

Galvez, Duque told by Duterte to walk out of Senate hearing if 'verbally abused' — Palace

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - January 20, 2021 - 2:23pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed two of his top appointees to walk out on senators if they become "verbally abusive" when the hearing on the national vaccination plan resumes on Friday, Malacañang said.

Tensions between the Senate and Cabinet members have risen in past weeks over the government's acquisition of 25 million doses of vaccines manufactured by China's Sinovac Biotech, which senators fear is less effective yet more expensive than its counterparts.

Galvez, according to presidential spokesman Harry Roque, told Duterte he had lost two weeks' worth of progress in his negotiations with vaccine suppliers due to the hearings and asked to skip Friday's installment, citing the need to resume talks for acquisition.

"But, in fairness to the president, his answer was: 'No, go to the Senate, continue answering questions... and if they become abusive to you verbally, just stand up and leave. And if they cite you in contempt, I will come and fetch you.'" Roque told CNN Philippines' "The Source" Wednesday.

Duterte himself has made his feelings on the Sinovac matter clear, lashing out and accusing the Senate during a Monday night pre-recorded address of harboring a preference for the vaccines developed by US-based Pfizer. Senate President Tito Sotto, Sens. Panfilo Lacson and Risa Hontiveros have denied this.

Roque has since clarified that the president was only referring to certain members of the upper chamber, such as Hontiveros who Duterte mentioned by name.

"[Duterte] could not understand why the demeanor of the senators were apparently bellicose like, they were war-like and, of course, there was already an attitude as if there was corruption going on," Roque said Wednesday.

Hontiveros on Tuesday said that it was Duterte's appointees, not the Senate, who showed partiality towards a vaccine brand. Lacson also noted that the confusion surrounding the price of Sinovac's jab could have been avoided if Cabinet officials had disclosed that it would not breach P700 sooner.

Pass the bias

The president, despite accusing the senators of bias, also prematurely linked Pfizer's vaccine with the deaths of elderly people in Norway. The Norwegian government has announced that no connection has been established between the jab and the post-vaccine deaths among its citizens.

Pfizer's vaccine has a 95% efficacy rate and it is the first and, so far, only vaccine to receive emergency use authorization (EUA) from the country's Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

No decisive data has been released by Sinovac on the efficacy of its jab — which was cleared for local clinical trials by the FDA Tuesday.

Health officials in Turkey found it to be 91.25% effective, but Brazilian authorities said it showed an efficacy of 50.4% in their own clinical trials, barely meeting the threshold of 50% to 60% set by global health authorities.

The price at which the vaccine was being acquired by the government was also unclear for weeks until Roque and vaccine czar Galvez finally disclosed that the cost would not be much different from the P650 offered to Indonesia and would not be more than P700.

Both Roque and Galvez have said that they were bound by confidentiality disclosure agreements and unable to reveal the exact price of any of the vaccines being purchased by the Philippines.

Earlier data given by the health department to Sen. Sonny Angara's office showed that the Sinovac jabs could cost as high as P3,629.

Senators have thus far remained unsatisfied with the information presented to them throughout their inquiry on the government's inoculation program, deciding to resume their hearing on January 22. "Secretary Galvez and Secretary Duque, if the Senate will have a hearing this Friday, will be there but with the instruction that if anyone becomes verbally abusive to them, they have the license to stand up and leave," Roque said.

CARLITO GALVEZ JR. COVID-19 VACCINE HEALTH SECRETARY FRANCISCO DUQUE III NOVEL CORONAVIRUS PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE SENATE VACCINE CZAR
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