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Duterte puts presidency on the line for Galvez
Addressing soldiers in Sulu last Saturday, President Rodrigo Duterte said: “Ipusta ko ‘yung presidency ko, walang graft ‘yan at si Secretary Galvez kilala ko (I would bet my presidency. I know Secretary Galvez and he is graft-free).”
Simeon Celi Jr./Presidential Photo, File

Duterte puts presidency on the line for Galvez

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 25, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Once again, President Duterte is offering to give up the presidency – this time, in vouching for the integrity of vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. whom critics suspect of attempting to overprice COVID-19 shots being purchased by the government.

Addressing soldiers in Sulu last Saturday, Duterte said: “Ipusta ko ‘yung presidency ko, walang graft ‘yan at si Secretary Galvez kilala ko (I would bet my presidency. I know Secretary Galvez and he is graft-free).”

Some senators have accused the Duterte administration of favoring Chinese drug maker Sinovac, producer of the vaccine CoronaVac, and demanded that the prices of the jabs be made public.

During the Senate oversight hearings, officials denied the accusation and assured the public that they would not sign a deal that would be disadvantageous to the Philippines.

Malacañang has said that the price of each Sinovac vaccine shot would not exceed P700, but has refused to reveal the exact amount, citing confidentiality disclosure agreements.

Last week, Duterte defended Galvez from critics who accused him of corruption, saying the negotiations with pharmaceutical companies do not involve personal or direct control of money and that any deal would be reviewed by his office and the finance department.
Galvez himself allayed worries of overpricing in the vaccine procurement, saying the Asian Development Bank and World Bank are observing stringent anti-corruption measures in the deal.

Duterte said he believes Galvez is doing everything he can to secure vaccines against COVID-19, which has so far infected more than 511,000 people nationwide.

“I was there in Marawi when we were fighting the Islamists and I saw in him (Galvez)… That’s why when he retired, I hired him. I asked him to take charge of all of these,” he said.

Galvez was the chief of the Western Mindanao Command when a group of extremists laid siege to Marawi City in 2017. Aside from being vaccine czar, Galvez is also the President’s peace adviser.

Yesterday, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the government’s choice of the lead vaccine brand to inject into Filipinos could determine whether or not the country’s economic would recover as fast as it should.

Recto said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) should rank the vaccines by efficacy and safety to allow those planning the procurement of serums to decide accordingly.

“Let’s ask the DOH (Department of Health) and the HTAC (Health Technology Assessment Council) closely study what’s happening around the world in terms of vaccination, gather data, so we can make a wise decision which vaccine is the safest and efficient vaccine that is applicable for Filipinos,” he told dzBB.

The senator said the Duterte administration is in a position to make the most out of the delay in its vaccine rollout program by looking at the data from the nearly 60 million vaccinations so far done globally, particularly the side effects and efficacy, to make a wise decision.

Earlier, Sen. Cynthia Villar warned the government can say goodbye to its hopes for the country to recover from recession in 2021 if it fails to meet the timetable and targets set for the mass vaccination program for COVID-19 until the third quarter of the year.

“If we wait until the third quarter, we won’t be able to reach our growth projections for 2021,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joel Villanueva said the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) should foot the bill of any member who would develop adverse side effects from COVID-19 vaccines.

Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, insisted on PhilHealth coverage of those who would experience side effects from the vaccine as a safety net to “boost vaccination acceptance.”

Health authorities said it planned to inoculate 50 million to 70 million Filipinos to stop the virus on its tracks and build herd immunity. – Paolo Romero

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