Duterte hits critics over claims of corruption in vaccine procurement
Marje Pelayo • January 26, 2021 • 228
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has fired back at critics of the government’s COVID-19 vaccine procurement program over claims that transactions are tainted with corruption.
The Chief Executive is even willing to personally speak with them, particularly those who are saying that the government is favoring a manufacturer or supplier.
“Kung sino nagsabi niyan (Whoever said that), please rise and be brave enough that you’re the one. I’d like to talk to you,” Duterte said.
Duterte stressed that his trusted representatives in the negotiations for COVID-19 vaccine procurement are not tasked with handling money.
His statement comes after Senator Panfilo Lacson’s post on Twitter which credits the Senate’s early probe into the government’s vaccine procurement plan for the drop in prices of Sinovac, thereby saving the people billions of pesos in the country’s vaccination program.
“I take exception to the statement nitong (that) they were able to prevent corruption or overpricing (of vaccines) because of their vigilance. No. Far from it actually. You were just muddling up,” Duterte said, adding that all negotiations made by Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. go through review and scrutiny of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and himself before finality.
“I will take a look and ask around if it is really reasonable pricing for us,” the President noted.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippine Navy (PN) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) have freezers that the government may use to transport vaccines that require sub-zero temperatures.
He said the PN has a total of four military vessels which have built-in freezers with a temperature range of negative 18 degrees Celsius to negative 15 degrees Celsius while those of the PCG range from 25 degrees Celsius to 20 degrees Celsius.
“Puwede po nating gamitin ito kapag magta-transport ng bakuna mula Manila at sa mga islands dito sa Visayas at saka dito pa sa Luzon siguro, (We can use those vessels to transport vaccines from Manila to the islands in Visayas and anywhere in Luzon), Lorenzana said.
The Defense Chief also said that medics from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are set to undergo training next week for their participation in the roll out of mass vaccination especially in the province. MNP (with inputs from Rosalie Coz)
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte said he is not comfortable with relaxing quarantine and testing protocols for arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
During Wednesday’s (April 21) public address, the President noted that less stringent measures could compromise the entire country as COVID-19 cases continue to surge.
“I’m not quite comfortable with the relaxation that’s being brought now,” he said.
“I am not ready for a compromise lalo na ngayon. ‘Yung ibang sakit siguro, pwede pa – iyong mga rabies. Pero ito, talagang … as I have said, dapo rito, dapo roon,” he added.
The meeting which included health experts was in response to the appeal of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III for an immediate swab test on OFWs upon arrival and a shortening of the quarantine period or their stay in hotels or isolation facilities.
“Kaya nga po kami nakikiusap sana, na kung maaari, ay we go back to the original protocol noon na pagdating ng ating OFWs, swab kaagad sila,” Bello said.
The medical experts recommended a review of the testing protocol but insisted that the implementation of strict quarantine measures is still best to be strictly enforced at this time.
“The [Technical Advisory Group] had some preliminary discussions po regarding the current issue, and we were thinking that based on the data that we have right now, it’s a better option to review the testing protocol,” said DOH-TAG member Dr. Anna Ong-Lim.
“We recommend that it be done at a later time, but the critical intervention should really be that quarantine should be strictly enforced,” she concluded.
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the grant of one-time financial aid of P20,000 to qualified pensioners under the employees’ compensation (EC) program.
Under Administrative Order (AO) No. 39, which was signed on Monday, Duterte authorized the Employees Compensation Commission (ECC) to grant the cash aid to EC pensioners for permanent partial disability, permanent total disability, and survivorship, in the private and public sectors, “subject to the availability of funds and pertinent laws, rules and regulations.”
Duterte directed the ECC, Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to set aside and release appropriate funding to cover the financial assistance from the Social Insurance Fund under the EC Program.
The ECC, in coordination with the SSS and GSIS, will issue the implementing rules and regulations necessary for the effective implementation of the order.
In signing the AO, Duterte recognized that the “adverse effects of the pandemic on the economy, supplementary health necessities for the battle against the virus, and restrictions imposed on our mobility and social interaction, have increased the financial and health burdens experienced by the EC pensioners.
The one-time cash aid will be granted to around 31,000 pensioners of the SSS and GSIS.
Duterte said AO 39 will take effect following its publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Monday said there is no need for President Rodrigo Duterte to speak on China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea, saying the strong statements of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of National Defense (DND) also reflects the president’s stance on the issue.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement to dispel notions that Duterte has been silent on the reported number of Chinese vessels still lingering in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“Doctrine of qualified political doctrine, kapag po hindi dini-dis-own ng president ang mga sinasabi ng kaniyang mga alter-egos, parang siya na po ang nagsasalita, hindi na kailangang siya ang magsalita,” Roque said in an online briefing.
The Palace official was referring to a Constitutional Doctrine which states that “utterances of alter egos are utterances of the President unless the president renounces them.”
Roque also reiterated that Duterte already stressed the importance of the 2016 Hague Ruling on the West Philippine Sea and that the Philippines will not set aside the landmark decision.
The National Task Force-West Philippine Sea earlier reported that at least 240 Chinese vessels were found lingering in various parts of the West Philippine Sea during its latest sovereignty patrols in the area.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier demanded the immediate withdrawal of the remaining Chinese vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef, telling the ships to sail away and for the Chinese to “leave our sovereign territories and abide by the international law.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. also repeatedly fired off diplomatic protests and called for the immediate withdrawal of Chinese vessels in the disputed waters.
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