Senate to resume inquiry into COVID-19 vaccination program on June 15
Senate President Vicente Sotto III presides over the continuation of the Committee of the Whole inquiry into government’s COVID-19 vaccination program, Friday, January 15, 2021.
Henzberg Austria/ Senate PRIB

Senate to resume inquiry into COVID-19 vaccination program on June 15

(Philstar.com) - June 12, 2021 - 12:45pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate Committee of the Whole next week will resume its hearing into the government's vaccination program to assess the utilization of its P82.5 billion fund, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Friday. 

"We want to be briefed because we are the ones who appropriate the budget. And under the law, we need to be informed how the appropriations are used," Lacson said in an interview with CNN Philippines' "The Source."

"We want to find out and keep track on the progress of the vaccination program. How many vaccines have been procured? How much more will be needed? That's part of our oversight function."

The Senate Committee of the Whole launched its inquiry into the government's inoculation program in January, almost two months before any vaccines were actually rolled out. 

The fourth installment of the hearing is scheduled on June 15, Tuesday, 10:00 a.m., Lacson said. 

Pandemic czars advised to be more assertive, give local execs more autonomy 

Lacson said he, along with Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Ronald deal Rosa, met with pandemic czars Carlito Galvez Jr., Vince Dizon and Benjamin Magalong Thursday night to receive updates on the government's COVID-19 response. 

"We advised them to be more assertive. Senate President Sotto even said that if they are sure they are right and their 'superiors' are wrong, they can 'defy' them," he recounted. 

He identified vaccine czar Galvez, specifically, who he said was "too patient to a fault" and "deferring" to his superiors. 

"Sometimes patience isn't a virtue when it comes to emergency situations," the senator said. 

On the other hand, Lacson also advocated for giving local executives who are implementing the government's pandemic response more leeway to make decisions. 

"[I]t is the people on the ground such as mayors who can appreciate the situation better. So it is important that they be given flexibility and more autonomy in the implementation of the vaccination program."

READ: Senators back Cebu’s swab-upon-arrival policy for OFWs | Senator calls on DOH to fast track release of vaccines still in gov’t facilities

As of June 8, 1.68 million Filipino have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, still far from the government’s goal of at least 50 million individuals inoculated to achieve “population protection.” Some 4.63 million Filipinos have received the first of two doses.

— Bella Perez-Rubio 

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