MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte again denied on Monday that there was corruption in the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
The money used to buy the vaccines, he said, were all borrowed from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the World Bank.
“So there’s no corruption here — because not one of us here holds any of the billions [borrowed],” Duterte said, speaking partly in Filipino. “So that’s the situation. That’s why it’s painful for us that there are these sweeping allegations about corruption.”
Not even the officials of the Inter-Agency Task Force against Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) would be handling any money — not even the payments for the loans.
Duterte also asked members of the Congress to avoid making accusations, nothing that one lawmaker, whom he did not name, raised the possibility of corruption in the vaccine procurement.
“That’s my request to members of Congress,” Duterte said. “In the meantime, someone said that none of you said that, [but] one of you said that. I just won’t say who… We’ll just go into a rigmarole,” he said.
This is not the first time Duterte assured the public that there was no corruption in the government’s immunization project. Last Jan. 21, he defended Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the IATF chief implementer and vaccine czar, against allegations that there was an overpricing in the purchase of vaccines.
In that address, Duterte urged people to take their minds off corruption for awhile. It may be happening in other agencies, he said, but not in his Cabinet.
Then in his Jan. 25 speech, Duterte slammed critics of his administration who claimed that public awareness and vigilance supposedly prevented corruption in the purchase of the vaccines. He said nothing was prevented because nothing happened.
The corruption allegations centered on allegedly changing prices in the COVID-19 vaccines from Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech. Sen. Panfilo Lacson pointed out on social media that prices in the Philippines and in other countries varied greatly.
According to Lacson, the Sinovac vaccine costs around $5, or roughly P240, per dose in some instances, but in the Philippines, it goes for around $38, or roughly P1,800.
Galvez then came out to criticize the allegations, saying that these were unfounded reports. However, Sen. Sonny Angara said that the point of comparison was the vaccine prices given by the Department of Health around November.
Galvez refused to divulge actual prices because of a nondisclosure agreement between the government and the vaccine manufacturers. But he said that costs would not go over P700 per dose.
However, netizens and Lacson believe that the Senate hearing on the issue and public vigilance were able to ‘prevent’ corruption — something which Duterte frowned upon.
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