Senate sets probe on COVID-19 vaccine procurement deals

The Senate Blue Ribbon committee has set its initial investigation into the COVID-19 vaccine procurement contracts worth billions of pesos on Wednesday, December 7.

The hearing was set by Senator Francis Tolentino, committee chairman, and has called on officials of the Department of Health (DOH) to attend the first hearing.

Tolentino will be assisted by three committee vice chairmen - Senators Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, Christopher ‘’Bong’’ Go and Alan Peter S. Cayetano.

Ex-officio officials are Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva and Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III.

The DOH had refused to give details of the contracts supposedly because of existing non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with the foreign vaccine manufacturers.

When he appeared recently before the Commission on Appointment to confirm his appointment as Commission on Audit (COA) chairman, Gamaliel Asis Cordoba told lawmakers that the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) had been asking for a special audit on the loans they had granted to the Philippine government for the procurement of the vaccines.

Cordoba said former Health Secretary Francisco Duque III had written to the state auditors that the DOH could not provide the documents due to the signed non-disclosure agreement with suppliers.

Tolentino had said Filipinos had the right to know where and how the coronavirus jabs were used as he expressed support for calls to audit the procured vaccines.