Malacañang said Wednesday the abrogation of the agreement between the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Department of National Defense (DND) was not a diversionary tactic from certain issues, including the government’s purchase of 25 million doses of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines from China.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after the DND unilaterally terminated its 30-year-old agreement with UP that bars the entry of police and the military on campuses without prior notice to the university’s administration.
In an interview with online news organization Politiko, Roque denied that the issue was floated to distract the public from other pressing issues.
“Hindi po (It’s not a diversionary tactic),” he said. “Talaga namang kagustuhan ng Presidente makasalba ng buhay, mabakunahan ang lahat, so wala po tayong issue na nililihis (It’s really President Duterte’s desire to save lives and vaccinate everyone so we’re not diverting the public’s attention from other issues),” he added.
Roque said Tuesday that President Duterte backs the decision of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to ditch the three-decades-old accord. A day later, Roque said that he would be willing to facilitate the talks between the DND and UP to discuss the agreement.
The abrogation of the UP-DND accord came as the Senate conducts an inquiry on the government’s COVID-19 vaccine purchase.
Many Filipinos online have been critical of the government’s decision to go with Sinovac, saying the vaccine was less effective yet more expensive compared to other vaccine brands in the market.
Malacañang has repeatedly denied that the Duterte administration is favoring the Chinese vaccine, saying they went with it because it is the only brand that is readily available for the Philippines. The first batch of Sinovac vaccines is set to arrive next month.