By Deighton Acuin and Archie Villaflores

PHOTO: Presidential Communications

The government must not be made to assume liability for side effects from COVID-19 vaccines procured by the private sector, President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday.

This was after Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez Jr. explained that all vaccine procurements are being done under a tripartite agreement with the drugmakers and government.

“The government cannot guarantee, much less give you an immune status that you are freed of any and all liability . . . I think we cannot even do that, even if we wanted to, ‘yung assumption ng liability for these stocks that are brought . . .for the private sector, sabihin mo sa kanila hindi pwede,” Duterte told Galvez during his weekly national address.

“In the first place, hindi atin yan, ngayon kung nagka-leche-leche ‘yan, mishandling, or for whatever reason it is not effective as advertised, then they will go after, against whom? Ang gusto ng manufacturers ang private sector ang magbili, ang gobyerno ang mag-assume ng liability, hindi ho pwede yung ganun. Malaking butas dyan actually, assumption of liability ng ganun,” he added.

Duterte insisted such arrangement where the government would shoulder indemnity to all procurements would be “illegal.”

“It’s illegal for us to do that, only Congress can do that.  When you assume a liability or you incur something which is beyond your control, in the first place sila yan, sila ang mag-transport, eh kung masira yan, mishandling whatever, there’s a host of reason there. As a lawyer I think it’s not possible, sabihin mo sorry,” he said.

A total of P500 million under the national contingent fund has been set aside “to augment the funds of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation” as indemnification for side effects among vaccinees.

The amount will be used to compensate any individual inoculated through the program “in case of death, permanent disability or hospital confinement.”

Under Section 8, it was stated that “public officials and employees, contractors, manufacturers, volunteers and representatives of duly authorized private entities who are duly authorized to carry out and are actually carrying out the COVID-19 Vaccination program shall be immune from suit and liability under Philippine laws . . .except arising from willful misconduct and gross negligence.”