Lacson rebuts Galvez, denies politicizing COVID vaccine talks

Published January 15, 2021, 12:19 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson vehemently denied Friday that he has been politicizing the ongoing negotiations by the national government with manufacturers and suppliers of the COVID-19 vaccine during the Senate Committee of the Whole (COW) hearing last Monday.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson (Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB)

“During last night’s Zoom meeting to discuss vaccine updates on ‘Test, Trace, Treat’ (T3), the country’s vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. virtually accused the Senate or at least some senators who asked questions during last Monday’s hearing, of, quoting his own words, ‘demonizing’ vaccine developers or ‘hurting’ the ongoing negotiations of our government with vaccine manufacturers and suppliers, apparently referring to Sinovac,’’ he said.

‘’He (Galvez) specifically mentioned my name as allegedly politicizing the issue at hand mainly because of Secretary (Francisco) Duque, which I deny of course; as well as the names of Senators (Juan Miguel) ‘’Migz’’ Zubiri and (opposition Sen. Francis) ‘’Kiko’’ Pangilinan, in relation to the Sinovac vaccine, as if blaming the Senate for the brewing vaccine procurement controversies,’’ he added.
In today’s second COW public hearing, Pangilinan immediately butted in and informed Senate President Vicente Sotto III that he was associating himself with Lacson’s manifestation.

Lacson explained that ‘’we senators do not spend long hours seeking clarification from our resource persons like Secretary Galvez because it is incumbent upon us to exercise our mandate to demand transparency and accountability from our chief implementers on how they plan to use public funds.’’

‘’In this case, to recover from a health crisis that continues to threaten every aspect of human life. After all, I am certain that everyone in this hall and those attending online will agree that our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is not a single man’s business,’’ he said.

‘’It is a matter of record that Congress wasted no time in passing legislative measures and appropriations to quickly respond and address the current health crisis. In fact, Mr. President, for the national government’s vaccination program alone, which currently stands at P87.5 billion speaks volumes of the legislature’s resolve and commitment to our nation’s common cause,’’ he stressed.

“Let me assure Secretary Galvez: Walang pulitika sa pagdinig na ito. Katulad din ng sinagawa nating pagdinig kamakailan lamang sa pang-abusong ginawa sa pondo ng PhilHealth na sa kasalukuyan as we speak, ay may mga kasong criminal na hinaharap ang ilang indibidwal. We call it oversight, or check-and-balance, if you will, being exercised by a coequal branch of government,’’ he added.

(There is no politicking here. Because of what we did in the hearing on alleged abuses of public funds by Philippine Health Insurance Corp., there are now criminal charges slapped against certain individuals)

‘’It is indeed unfortunate that the Senate is being dragged as scapegoat by projecting the narrative that this inquiry is being used as an avenue for political agenda,’’ he explained.