Duterte hits critics claiming corruption in vax procurement was prevented because of them
Undated photo shows coronavirus vaccine candidate developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

Duterte hits critics claiming corruption in vax procurement was prevented because of them

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - January 26, 2021 - 5:30pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has assailed critics who claimed that their vigilance has prevented corruption in the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines, accusing them of muddling the issue and challenging them to explain to him why they made such a remark.

Duterte explained that the purchase of COVID-19 shots is not yet completed as it would still be reviewed by his office and the finance department. The decision of vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. on what shots would be bought is not the "sum total" of the procurement process, the president added.

"I take exception to the statement that they were able to prevent corruption or an overprice because of their vigilance. No. Far from it actually. You were just muddling up... you are just muddling the issue. It's still a long way to go and it has to pass through (Finance Secretary Carlos) Dominguez and you know how Dominguez is. Let's see if it would pass through Dominguez," Duterte said in a pre-recorded public address last Monday.

"That is not the end of everything...The decision of Galvez is not... the sum total of it all. It has to be reviewed. And finally, it will also pass through me, I will take a look and ask around if it is really a reasonable pricing for us," he added.

Chinese drug maker Sinovac is set to supply the Philippines with 25 million doses of vaccine, 50,000 of which are expected to be delivered next month. Some senators have criticized the Duterte administration's plan to buy COVID-19 shots from the Chinese drug maker, citing reports that the shots developed by the company are more expensive and less effective. Critics have also accused the government of favoring Chinese drug maker Sinovac and have urged Galvez to reveal the price of the China-made jabs.

Malacañang has denied the allegations, saying Sinovac vaccines were found to be effective in other countries and are not the most expensive among the brands that the Philippines intends to buy. Officials have also claimed that the price of each Sinovac vaccine jab is less than P700, not P3,629 as reported previously but they declined to disclose the exact amount, citing confidentiality disclosure agreements.

Duterte dared those who are claiming that corruption in vaccine procurement has been prevented to meet with him to explain their views.

"Some are saying there is already corruption or they were able to obstruct or prevent corruption," the president said.

"Alam mo, mga bulador kayo (You are fooling the people)... Kung sinong nagsabi niyan (whoever said that), please rise and be brave enough to say that you are the one. I'd like to talk to you, tayo lang dalawa (just the two of us). Maski saan mo gusto, sa bahay mo para medyo maganda ang usapan o hindi sa labas kasi bawal (Wherever you want so we can have a good conversation. Not outside because it's not allowed). You can do it...there in the house, at the office at Pasig," he added.

Duterte did not say who made such a claim about the vaccine purchase. The president's invitation came days after Sen. Panfilo Lacson tweeted that observers and people on the internet can "pat themselves on the back" if it is true that the prices of Sinovac vaccines have dropped from P1,847.25 per dose to P650.

The president reiterated that negotiations with vaccine manufacturers do not involve personal or direct control of money. Officials previously said vaccine purchases go through multilateral arrangements with fund managers like the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.   

"Nobody holds the money actually...they (critics) are still trying to pick the brains of Galvez looking for something which is not there at all, Duterte said.

"Again, to the Filipino people, to those who want to believe in the opposition and those who are posturing themselves, then side with them. If you believe us, side with us," he added.

Last week, Duterte said he was ready to bet the presidency to vouch for the integrity of Galvez.

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