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Duterte hits 'critics' who 'prevented' corruption in COVID vaccine acquisition

 By Deighton Acuin and Archie Villaflores

PHOTO: Presidential Communications

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night slammed the critics claiming to have prevented corruption in the government’s purchase of coronavirus vaccines, saying that they are trying to muddle the negotiations.

In a recorded Talk to The People, Duterte took exception over talks of people’s vigilance on the national vaccination plan which led to lower price cap, as this was not the case.

Several questions have surrounded the government’s procurement with vaccines from Chinese pharmaceutical form Sinovac despite alleged low rate of efficacy and high price rates. However, officials said the prices were incorrect.

“Again to the Filipino people, ‘yong gustong maniwala doon sa mga oposisyon pati ‘yong mga nagpo-porma, eh ‘di doon kayo.  (Kung) Maniwala kayo sa amin, eh ‘di dito kayo.  But hindi ‘yan (corruption allegations) totoo,” Duterte said.

“I take exception to itong statement that they were able to prevent corruption or an overpriced because of their vigilance.  No, far from it, actually.  You’re just muddling, you muddled up, ginugulo lang ninyo (you’re messing it up),” Duterte added.

Duterte did not mention somebody but Senator Panfilo Lacson previously tweted that the “netizens and observers can pat themselves on the back” if it is true that the SInovac’s vaccine prices are going down by huge sum.

“If it’s true that government is now dropping the price of Sinovac vaccine from P1,847.25 per dose to only P650, the Senate has probably done our share to save our people billions of pesos in the country’s vaccination program. Netizens can pat themselves on the back,” Lacson said.

Sinovac is one of the firms the government negotiation with. However, several officials questioned the prices, as Lacson and other sources noted that the drug costs around P250 per dose in some instances, it goes around P1,800 in the Philippines.

After the Senate Committee of the Whole investigation, it was revealed that the Chinese vaccine would not exceed P700 — an idea in which the probe and the spark of public criticism led to low rates.

Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez Jr., meanwhile, slammed reports of high prices, saying the vaccine has low prices during the negotiations.

Furthermore, Senator Sonny Angara said the point of reference came from the Department of Health (DOH) around month of November.

Lacson also defended the chamber from accusations of taking credit for low price cap while making it political.

For his part, Duterte assured there is no corruption surrounding the government’s negotiations as he and Department of Finance (DOF) Chief Carlos Dominguez have the last say of purchasing vaccines.

“Matagal pa ‘yan, dadaan pa ‘yan kay Dominguez and you know how Dominguez is, tignan mo kung maka-lusot ‘yan kay Dominguez, okay ‘yan.  That is not the end of everything,” Duterte said.

“The decision of Galvez is not the sum total of it all, it has to be reviewed and finally sa akin rin, I will take a look and ask around if it is really a reasonable pricing for us,” the president added.


RELATED ARTICLE: Philippine Daily Inquirer