Lacson believes Task Force PhilHealth found enough evidence to indict Duque

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 5, 2020   •   347

Senator Panfilo Lacson said the Task Force PhilHealth has found enough evidence to indict Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III.

In a statement, Lacson said Duque and former PhilHealth Senior Vice President Rodolfo del Rosario may still face charges amid the alleged mass corruption in the said agency.

The senator said they based it on inside information that Senate President Vicente Sotto III received from a trusted source.

“Ayoko pangunahan ang task force pero ito na-share ni Senate President na nai-share sa kaniya ng isang mapagkatiwalaang source niya sa task force na sinabi nila aabutin ng ebidensya si Secretary Duque, pati si Senior Vice President del Rosario, (I don’t want to preempt the task force but this is what the Senate President shared which he received from a trusted source in the task force. They said the evidence could drag Secretary Duque and Senior Vice President del Rosario into the case),” Lacson said.

Meanwhile, the Task Fore PhilHealth said it is prepared to discuss the evidence that the senators have as the investigation continues. Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra said they will still look into the previous corruption issues in PhilHealth.

“Patuloy po itong gagawin at marami pa pong mga pangalan siguro ang mga lilitaw sa mga susunod na araw (We will continue this and there are still names that will surface in the coming days),” he said.

Guevarra said the DOJ they will still submit more complaints to the Office of the Ombudsman this week.

Department of Health (DOH) Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said Secretary Duque is prepared to face the allegations.

“Mas makikita natin talaga ang totoo kapag ginawa ito. Wala po tayong tinututulan diyan at tayo po ay makikipagtulungan (We would be able to clearly see the truth if we do [the investigation]. We are not stopping anyone and we are willing to cooperate). The Secretary of Health maintains his innocence on this,” she said.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed malversation and graft charges against former PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales and eight other PhilHealth officials due to alleged irregularities in the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM). AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Lacson accepts Galvez’s apology over ‘politicizing’ remark on COVID-19 vaccine issue

Robie de Guzman   •   January 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday said he has accepted the apology of vaccine czar and National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. for his previous remark accusing some senators of politicizing the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

“I accepted his apology. He promised to be more careful in issuing statements,” Lacson said in a statement.

The senator said Galvez apologized during a meeting with him, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senator Ronald dela Rosa, and contact tracing czar Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong on Wednesday.

But prior to their meeting, Lacson said he received a message from Magalong, relaying Galvez’s request to meet with him to apologize for his remarks during virtual meeting last week.

“He also promised to brief me and disclose all the details of their vaccine procurement, including the prices of the different brands,” he said.

“Then came the instruction of President Rodrigo Duterte to Sec. Galvez to brief Senate President Vicente Sotto III. I suggested to them that SP Sotto and I just go together, along with Sen. Ronald de la Rosa,” he added.

During the meeting, Lacson said that Galvez was able to clarify “a lot of issues and concerns raised by senators that have remained unresolved until last night.”

“We advised him to explain in tomorrow’s hearing the same way that he did last night, without violating the terms of the agreement with the vaccine suppliers,” he added.

The Senate is set to resume its inquiry on Friday, January 22 on the government’s nationwide immunization plan.

Lacson said he was satisfied with Galvez’s briefing but advised the official to be vigilant against any irregularity that may be taking place without his knowledge.

“We were shown the documents. And we have no doubt about Sec. Galvez’s integrity and his sincerity to accomplish his task,” he said.

“That said, we advised Sec. Galvez to mind his back, front, left and right sides. He may have the best of intentions but there may be people pushing him out front to do the talking and explaining to take advantage of his credibility while pursuing their own interests,” he added.

Lacson said that Galvez has assured senators that he will make it “very hard for those people to even have an opening for that opportunity.”

PH to get COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX in Q1 2021 – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   January 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) announced that the Philippines has received confirmation of its participation in the COVID-19 vaccine financing instrument – COVAX facility – Advance Market Commitment.

The COVAX Facility, an initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO), is a global procurement mechanism which invests in a broad portfolio of promising vaccine candidates to support their research, development, and manufacturing.

This facility was setup to ensure fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

“With the country’s participation in the COVAX Facility, the country is set to receive vaccines in the first quarter of this year,” the DOH said in a statement on Wednesday.

As part of the preparations for the COVID-19 vaccine deployment, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. on Wednesday visited three cold storage facilities that can potentially be used in the first wave of COVID-19 vaccine roll-out.

The cold chain facilities visited were the First Pioneer Distribution Center of UNILAB located in Biñan City, Laguna, the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City, and the Zuellig Pharma Corporation in Parañaque City.

“The inspection was carried out to ensure that the cold chain facilities will meet the storage requirement of vaccines prior to its distribution to identified vaccination sites,” the DOH said.

UNILAB’s cold storage facility has a temperature range of +2 to +8 °C and can store a maximum of five million doses of vaccines.

Meanwhile, Zuellig Pharma reported that its facilities can accommodate pharmaceutical products with temperature requirements ranging between -80°C to +25 °C. Its cold rooms with temperature ranging from +2 to +8 °C can store up to 629 million doses in various warehouses, its -15 to -25 °C walk-in freezers can hold up to 40 million doses, and its 14 ultra-cold freezers with -80 to -70 °C temperature range has the capacity to store up to 6.5 million doses.

“The vaccine cluster, on behalf of the government, is grateful to UNILAB and Zuellig Pharma for partnering with the government in further strengthening the country’s capacity to curb the pandemic. We also express our commitment to ensure continued support for RITM in its preparations to receive vaccines,” Galvez said.

RITM Director Dr. Celia Carlos said that RITM currently has four cold rooms with a +2 to +8 °C temperature range, one -20 °C walk-in freezer, and two borrowed ultra-low temperature freezers with a -70 to -80 °C temperature range. Presently, RITM commits its ultra-low temperature storage facility.

With this, the DOH said that Galvez has recommended the constitution of another team at the RITM exclusively handling the COVID-19 vaccine deployment, adding that a separate team for EPI (Expanded Program of Immunization) vaccines is ideal for an uninterrupted focus and roll-out of both immunization programs.

Duque, on the other hand, noted that aside from cold chain facilities, the vaccine cluster is also in talks with third-party logistics providers to ensure efficiency of the entire supply chain management of COVID-19 vaccines, from the receipt of vaccines from the COVAX Facility to its deployment.

“All of these preparations that we are undertaking are aimed at ensuring that the country is ready to receive, store, and mobilize the COVID-19 vaccines that will come from the COVAX Facility,” Duque said.

13 contacts of Filipino with UK variant, positive for COVID-19

Marje Pelayo   •   January 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) confirmed on Wednesday (January 20) that eight of the co-passengers of the male case of UK variant of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) who arrived from Dubai also tested positive for COVID-19.

All eight, who are Filipino nationals, were immediately quarantined upon arrival and were transported to the isolation facilities right after the result of the RT-PCR tests were released.

Though the first RT-PCR tests were COVID-19 positive, their viral load was low and couldn’t be taken for genome sequencing.

The group has undergone swab testing to determine if they, also, are positive for the UK variant.

Aside from the eight individuals, five other close contacts of the UK variant positive patient have been tested positive for COVID-19.

These include two other passengers who were with them on the flight from Dubai, the patient’s mother and his partner, as well as the healthcare worker who assisted him.

Authorities, however, have not revealed any detail yet as to how the mother of the male patient contracted the disease.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte stressed that there was not a time the male patient went home in his residence in Quezon City since they arrived.

“Ang very close contacts niya ay mga household members nila kasama yung nanay at yung girlfriend niya,” explained Health Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire.

“Iyong girlfriend niya initially tested negative pero nung nagre-swab tayo, she turned positive. And the mother, nung na-swab siya, ang resulta niya rin ay positive. So pinadala na rin for sequencing yung kanilang mga specimen,” she added.

All samples from the said five COVID-19 positive patients have been sent to the Philippine Genome Center for sequencing to also determine if they are positive for the UK variant.

Results are expected to be out on Thursday.

Meanwhile, six more persons from the 159 close contacts of the patient are still being located.

The DOH has asked the help of Contact Tracing Czar Mayor Benjamin Magalong to immediately locate them.

“153 of them ay na-contact na natin. Nagkaroon na tayo ng pakikipag-ugnayan with them. They are all now isolated. So we are now left with 6 but this morning may report sa akin meron na ring nahanap uli na additional two,” Vergeire.

“So apat nalang po ang natitira na hindi natin nahahanap,” she added.

The DOH is closely monitoring the results of the tests on the patient’s close contacts to prevent the spread of the UK variant in the Philippines.

The agency reminds the public to always be responsible and follow strict minimum health standards whatever variant of COVID-19 is prevailing in the country. MNP (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

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