Duterte: No corruption in pricing of vaccines
President Duterte was referring to claims by critics that their vigilance prevented corruption in the procurement of COVID vaccines. He said the procurement process has yet to be completed and would be reviewed by his office and the Department of Finance.
Presidential photo/Toto Lozano

Duterte: No corruption in pricing of vaccines

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 27, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has insisted there is no corruption in the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines as he accused his critics of muddling the issue and challenged them to explain their remark.

Duterte was referring to claims by critics that their vigilance prevented corruption in the procurement of COVID vaccines. He said the procurement process has yet to be completed and would be reviewed by his office and the Department of Finance.

“The decision of vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. on what shots would be procured is not the ‘sum total’ of the procurement process,” the President said during a public address on Monday night.

“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 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.

“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.

Senators criticized the administration’s plan to buy COVID-19 shots from the Chinese drug maker, citing reports that the shots are more expensive and less effective.

Critics also accused the government of favoring Chinese drug maker Sinovac and urged Galvez to reveal the price of the China-made jabs.

Malacañang 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 also claimed the price of each Sinovac vaccine jab is less than P700, not P3,629 as reported earlier, although they declined to disclose the exact amount, citing confidentiality disclosure agreements.

Duterte dared critics to meet with him and explain their views.

“Whoever said that is fooling the people. Be brave enough to admit that you are the one. I’d like to talk to you, just the two of us,” he said.

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 such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.

“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,” Duterte said.

In private

Duterte said he would opt to take his vaccine in private because he wants to get inoculated on the buttocks.

He brushed aside critics who are questioning his decision to take his vaccine out of the public eye.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the vaccination would remain public even as Galvez sought the President’s help in convincing the public that it is safe to get the vaccine.

Critics questioned why Duterte seems to take his vaccination away from the public eye when doing it in public would show how he leads by example.

Roque said the President’s endorsement is needed in the government’s communication strategy to boost confidence in the vaccine.

Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo said she is willing to be publicly vaccinated to encourage Filipinos to be inoculated.

“It’s important that the President leads. But if he doesn’t want to do it, I’m willing to lead,” Robredo said in her weekly program over dzXL.

Robredo said leaders of many countries have publicized their inoculation to boost the people’s confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Because there is so much fear over the safety of the vaccine. But for me, there’s also a need to clarify to the people the conditions of the different types of vaccines,” she said, noting that people would tend to choose a particular vaccine due to limited information.

“The people would be picky with the vaccine because it’s not explained well. We should avoid this once we roll out the vaccination,” Robredo said.

She also finds it unnecessary to dare her to be among the first to get the COVID-19 shot as she had been volunteering to do it.

Roque said the President’s decision to be vaccinated in private is final.

“I think so. He has said so. He said he will be injected in the buttocks so it can’t be done in public,” Roque said.

Intensified info drive

Local government units (LGUs) have been urged to launch a massive information campaign to counter “fake news” about the COVID vaccines, an official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said yesterday.

DILG Undersecretary for operations Epimaco Densing III said what is needed are effective communication strategies to convince the public that vaccines being procured by the government are safe.

“Communciation is very critical because fake news abound and when left unattended will result in the loss of public confidence in the vaccine,” Densing said during a news briefing in Pasig City. – Christina Mendez, Helen Flores, Emmanuel Tupas

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