Clear as mud

Clear as mud"No wonder we’re imagining 'kickvacs.'"



If you read the newspapers or tune in over television and radio, the roadmap on the rollout on the vaccine program is clear as mud, Santa Banana!

While Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. told the Senate in a hearing that the government’s deal with the Chinese company Sinovac was not yet a done deal, here comes the Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian saying that the Sinovac doses which the Philippines ordered are already on their way to the Philippines from China. This is contrary to what Galvez is saying.

What makes things worse is that Sinovac still has to secure what is called “Emergency Use Authorization” from the panel of experts and the Food and Drug Administration.

This leads me to ask, why this preference for the Chinese brand by the Duterte administration? When we compare the Chinese vaccine with other Western brands, it is the second most expensive. But at least Moderna, the priciest at P3,904 - P4,504 for two doses, has an efficacy rate of 95 percent. Sinovac, priced at P3,629.50, has an efficacy rate of only 50.40 percent.

Let me remind our leaders that it is the people’s money that the government is using to buy vaccines. This undue preference for the Chinese vaccine raises suspicions that some Duterte people are getting “Kickvax.”

Common sense dictates that the seeming preference for the Chinese vaccine raises a lot of questions. My gulay, Pfizer from the United States costs P2,379 for two doses, with 95-percent efficacy. And it has already applied to the FDA for Emergency Use Application and can be available. It simply doesn’t make sense why the Duterte government would still buy Sinovac.

I really smell a rat somewhere.

I recall that Pfizer was ready to supply the Philippines with vaccines as early as this month, but that “somebody dropped the ball.” Just who did the dropping has only been hinted at but never revealed.

Can they blame the people for thinking there was some hanky-panky involved?

Remember we also heard that members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) in close contact with President Duterte were administered those Chinese vaccines together with some 100,000 Chinese expatriates, mostly Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) workers, together with some sectors of the military and some cabinet members. During the Senate investigation, however, our senators seem to have forgotten all these irregularities and focused only on the vaccine rollout.

That event also revealed an utter failure of intelligence, considering the fact the Chinatown civic leader Teresita Ang See knew a lot of the smuggling of those Chinese vaccines to the country and how they were administered to the chosen few. Do our senators forget that somebody should be made accountable for the smuggled vaccines?

As I said from the start, the case of the smuggled vaccine from China and how they were administered to a very select few without intelligence knowing it adds more confusion to an already state of things. This is a threat to national security, Santa Banana!

The tragedy of it all is that while no less than 50 countries are already engaged in mass inoculation of vaccines to end the COVID-19 pandemic, we here in the Philippines are still debating what vaccine to procure.

What’s wrong with us?

We need to know the details of the vaccine rollout program especially since a much-feared new strain of the virus has entered the country. Unfortunately, we have a vaccine czar who does not seem to know where he is going.

With all this confusion, faith and trust in the government are getting even more eroded. Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations have already found that more than one-third of Filipino adults surveyed doubt the efficacy and safety of vaccines.

After that failed vaccine program in 2017 as a result of the Dengvaxia scandal during the Aquino administration when some 800,000 public school children were inoculated with the anti-dengue vaccine resulting instead in the death of many, doubts about vaccines began to surface.

* * *

The move of Congress to amend the 1987 Constitution to make it more responsive to the times opens several questions.

First, what provisions of the character must be amended? While the consensus of both chambers is to confine themselves on the economic provisions, there are fears that during the plenary, nobody can stop a member of the House and the Senate to bring up other amendments like extending the terms of those elected to local and national positions. The result would be chaos and confusion. And this would lead to a case filed before the Supreme Court.

Second, the contentious problem is how a Constituent Assembly, as provided for by the 1987 Constitution. Will the chambers vote jointly or separately? Even now, there are those who want both chambers to vote separately. The Senate, of course, wants to vote separately, being only 24 senators compared to the House with 304 members. This issue might even go to the Supreme Court.

Third, whatever is decided by Congress will still go to a national plebiscite. This will be decided by the people.

To my mind, there is no Constitution in the world that is so cast in stone that it can’t be amended. Personally, I also believe that there is a need to amend the restrictive economic provisions on foreign investments. This has been the clamor of foreign investors and local business sectors.

Foreign investments amounting to over $364 billion have fled the Philippines. One reason is the restrictive economic provisions of the charter. While I agree with this, I believe more than ever that foreign investors shy away from the Philippines because of the lack of consistency in government contracts—and too much politics.

Take the case of Maynilad and Manila Water concessions. While both concessions won an arbitral decision against the government in Singapore, President Duterte does not want to observe it. Instead, he even wants the government to rewrite the concession agreements when Maynilad and Manila Water concessions were already approved by previous governments.

This is what I mean about the lack of consistency in government contracts. While one administration approved it, the succeeding one has its own likes and dislikes. This is the biggest factor why foreign investors shy away from the country and why the Philippines is at the bottom of the totem pole on foreign investments, Santa Banana!

Topics: vaccine program , Huang Xilian , Food and Drug Administration , Sinovac
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