Senate inquiry must not affect nat’l  COVID efforts

Published January 7, 2021, 7:39 AM

by Manila Bulletin

It is unfortunate that the  new  year of 2021 is beginning with a vaccine  controversy when our  efforts should be concentrated on fighting the COVID-19 which continues to infect and kill people in our  country.

That   case of a COVID-19 vaccine being used by the Presidential Security Guards (PSG), along with some Cabinet members, refuses to die down, despite  the  explanations  and assurances of the presidential spokesman and the presidential  legal counsel that the PSG action was actually meritorious and deserving  of praise.

After  President Duterte  appealed to Congress  “not  to tinker” with the PSG, the  Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)  decided  Monday to cancel its  inquiry  into the actions of the PSG men, who are part of the AFP. The Senate will, however, go on with its inquiry  on the entire vaccine situation in the country,  including  Sen. Panfilo  Lacson’s charge that someone in the government “dropped the ball” in  early  talks with Pfizer, so that we won’t  be having any vaccine until May, five months from now.

Senate President Vicente Sotto said  that when the Senate Committee of the Whole  meets, led by him as Senate  president,  it  will focus on how the government is spending the P75.5 billion  allocated in the 2021 national budget.  He said he has no plans to call   the PSG to the hearing.

The National  Bureau  of Investigation (NBI) is  pursuing its own investigation  focusing on possible violation of laws in the entry of the vaccines used by the PSG.  After the issue came up last week, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had said the vaccines had been smuggled into the  country.

The PSG has been defended by  Presidential Spokesman Harry  Roque and  Presidential Legal Counsel  Salvador Panelo,  as well as by Sen. Ronald de la Rosa.  Roque  said as far as Malacanang is concerned, the  PSG did not commit anything wrong when its men had themselves innoculated  in keeping with their duty  to protect the President.

The COVID-19 threat remains in our country, with cases probably rising in the second week of January, as a result of the recent   gatherings  during the Christmas holidays. We hope the infections are within the limits projected, so there will be no need for new and stricter restrictions.