By Deighton Acuin

PHOTO: Presidential Communications

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday responded to Vice President Leni Robredo’s observation that he seems thin-skinned, saying he is not “pikon” but angry at her for supposed increasing of public doubt on coronavirus vaccines produced by China-based Sinovac Biotech.

In his weekly talk to the People, Duterte added he was angry with Robredo for coming out with “half-truth” that Sinovac vaccines needed to secure a recommendation from Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC).

"Imbes na magtulong to convince the people, here she comes and making it appear that government has failed in its mandate of securing...Ma'am, hindi ako napikon. Hindi ako mapikon kay hindi ko sarili ito," Duterte said.

"Imbes na makatulong ang Vice President, she created confusion, thereby creating doubts and uncertainty in the minds of the people," Duterte continued. 

"'Yan ang ginalitan ko because we are running against time,” Duterte added.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, meanwhile, said the vaccine did not require HTAC approval since it was a donation and not an investment.

"Hindi ho kailangan ng recommendation, kasi nakalagay dito [sa Universal Health Care Law] investment, wala naman tayong ininvest, donated 'yun eh. So EUA [emergency use authorization] lang po ang kinailangan," said Duque.

Section 34 of the Universal Health Care Act states that "investments on any health technology or development of any benefit package by the DOH and PhilHealth shall be based on the positive recommendations of the HTA."

Last February 28, China donated 600,000 CoronaVac doses as the country kickstarted the vaccination in major Metro Manila Hospitals last week.

Earlier, Robredo made the “pikon” remark as the President told her to die over criticisms on the government’s COVID-19 outbreak response.

Robredo has urged Filipinos to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and said that it is important for the public to see Duterte get the vaccine, to increase public confidence in it.