“Ang ‘incompetent’ ay bunsong kapatid ng sinungaling at magnanakaw.”
Sen. Panfilo Lacson thus described on Monday the incompetence, greed, and corruption surrounding the procurement of vaccines from China-based Sinovac, in his privilege speech on Monday.
Lacson said that had the Senate not probed the issue, and the original price of P3,629 or $38 per two doses pushed through, the price difference for the 25 million doses the Philippines was to get would have reached US$350 million or P16.8 billion.
“Imagine this, Mr. President. Marahil kung sakaling hindi natalakay sa pagdinig ng Senado ang kontrobersya ng Sinovac, at assuming natuloy ang original na presyong P3,629 or $38 kada dalawang bakuna o P1,814 equivalent to $19 kada turok, kontra $5 sa Thailand, easily the price difference of 25 million doses would fetch US$350 million or P16.8 billion,” he said.
“That being said, I am not prepared to accuse anyone in particular of corruption. Rather, it defies logic to suspect at least an attempt to overprice the vaccine. Again, when there is an attempt at overpricing, isn’t it also logical to think na may kikita ng limpak-limpak na salapi?” he added.
In his speech, Lacson lamented the senators may have been had by the officials in the govenrment’s vaccination program.
“Looking back to last week’s Committee of the Whole 2-day hearings, I couldn’t help but think that we’ve been had. Instead of having the information needed to aid us in our legislative work mainly because some people in the panel of our resource persons who are in charge of the vaccine program were not forthright and honest in their responses to the questions raised by the members of this august chamber,” he said.
He noted vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr, and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III claimed we already secured Sinovac supply of 25 million doses, that they “sealed the deal” and have a “locked-in agreement” with Sinovac, and an initial 50,000 doses are already available for delivery by February 20 onwards.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque Jr. then announced Sinovac vaccines was the ONLY vaccine available from February to June, and Filipinos cannot be “choosy” as in – take Sinovac or wait until after June this year to be inoculated.
Yet, he said the public was kept in the dark when it comes to our price negotiations with Sinovac, while the Philippines’ neighbors “could not be more transparent about it.”
Lacson also questioned Galvez’s claim in a TV interview, quoting a Thai mayor who stated that they are “ready to spend 100 million baht to buy vaccines for 70,000 residents, if they receive permission to do so.”
He said that from these figures, Thailand’s acquisition of of the vaccine per dose would be $23.47.
But a fact-check showed the mayor of Nakhon Yala, who Galvez referred to, was not referring to any particular brand of vaccine, much less Sinovac.
On the other hand, Lacson noted that during the Senate’s second hearing last Jan. 15, WHO representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe disclosed that under the WHO program, low- and medium-income countries are actually recipients of free vaccines through the COVAX facility, and the Philippines has an allocation of 44 million doses of anti-COVID19 vaccines.
“As I was observing our resource persons from where I sat right in this hall, I didn’t notice any glow in their eyes or at least an expression of pleasant surprise in their faces, which should have been the case for a normal person after hearing such a wonderful piece of information. 44 million doses! My God, Philippines, my beloved Philippines – at P1,200 per dose as the estimated average cost made by the Department of Finance for purposes of transacting loan agreements with the World bank and the Asian Development Bank, this would translate into P52.8 billion worth of free vaccines! Isn’t that wonderful, Mr. President?” Lacson said.
Also, he noted Roque on Sunday dismissed the initially-released P3,600 price for two dosages of Sinovac as “fake news.”
Yet, he said the figures came from the Department of Health, as submitted to the Senate finance committee during deliberations on the 2021 budget.
“We dare ask: Are Secretary Roque and Secretary Galvez saying that Secretary Duque was the peddler of that fake news?” Lacson said.
“When the Pfizer issue came about, we asked: ‘Who dropped the ball?’ We haven’t even gotten a clear answer, Mr. President. And now, on the Sinovac vaccine, we ask, ‘Who dropped the price?’” Lacson said.
Meanwhile, Lacson scored as well the tactic of confusion by vaccine program officials “in their rush to procure Sinovac.”
“Unluckily for them, we do not get confused easily,” he said.
He cited Galvez’s claim we will have a roll-out of the vaccine next month and onwards, despite the lack of Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of Sinovac in the Philippines.
Galvez made the “assurance” that Sinovac will be approved before its supposed roll-out somehow sends an impression of undue preference for the Sinovac over other available vaccines, he added.
“It also poses the question: are we not preempting the independent evaluation of the FDA with such pronouncement from the Chief of the National Vaccine Program?” he said.