By Rommel F. Lopez

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on January 18, 2021. SIMEON CELI/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO



Senators were wondering why President Rodrigo Duterte accused them of holding a bias toward Pfizer’s vaccine, with some turning the table on the president who does not hold back public promotion of China-made vaccines.

A visibly agitated Duterte claimed Monday night that the Senate which has been conducting hearings into the government’s national vaccination plan, holds a special preference for Pfizer’s vaccine.

“Ayan ‘yung sa Pfizer, gusto ninyong Pfizer, kayong mga senador, in Norway, 25 persons died after receiving Pfizer vaccination. Gusto ninyo? Mag-order kami para sa inyo. Iyon ang gusto ninyo paulit-ulit nandito sa article ng Inquirer,” Duterte said.

Senate President Tito Sotto wondered where the president got the impression that the upper chamber preferred the Pfizer vaccine.  He suspected that Duterte might have been receiving inaccurate reports of the Senate hearings.

“Tell him Thanks but No Thanks! I wonder what gave him the idea that the senators favor Pfizer,” he said in an interview with ABS-CBN.

“I asked Sen Bong Go yesterday…if the President is informed of what’s transpiring in our hearings. He said yes but apparently not!” he added.

For his part, Sen. Ping Lacson said that he is not aware of any senator who has shown his/her public preference for the Pfizer vaccine.

“What we are doing in the Senate is an exercise of our oversight function over the appropriations laws that we passed, particularly on the purchase of the vaccines,” he said in an interview with ANC’s “Headstart”.

This is not the first time Duterte used his late-night address to the nation to rant against his critics using baseless accusations.

Back in November, Duterte lashed out at Vice President Leni Robredo and her daughters for supposedly starting the #NasaanAngPangulo in social media.  Duterte falsely claimed that Robredo and her daughters egged on netizens to look for Duterte while some parts of the country were being battered by Typhoon Ulysses.  Neither Robredo nor his daughters started the hashtag which originally was used by netizens against then-President Noynoy Aquino.

Duterte also lashed out Monday at opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros claiming the senator prefers Pfizer over other vaccine manufacturers.

Duterte has not been shy in endorsing China’s Sinovac vaccine.

“Lahat kayo you apparently… Mas bilib kayo sa… Itong isa, “Senator Risa Hontiveros issued a similar call for the government to follow up Pfizer’s EU [emergency use] on approval of FDA [Food and Drug Administration].”

Hontiveros, however, countered Duterte’s claims saying it is Duterte and his spokesperson, Atty. Harry Roque, who publicly endorsed only one vaccine brand.

“Ang Palasyo lang naman ang nagtataya ng lahat ng pera ng bayan sa isang kabayo. It is the Palace itself, through its Spokesperson, in its prior statements, that definitely showed preference for a single Chinese vaccine, despite reports of its lower efficacy, and questionable pricing cost,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

Roque has long defended Duterte’s decision to prefer the Chinese vaccines claiming that China is selling them to the Philippine at a “BFF” rate, cheaper than the P3,000 rate which Sen. Sonny Angara’s office received from the Department of Health last year. He even said that he personally prefers to be injected with a Chinese-made vaccine.

Roque, along with vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, have all refused to divulge the exact prices of the jabs being acquired by the government citing confidentiality disclosure agreements with vaccine manufacturers.

However, Roque later admitted that the jabs are about P650 while Galvez said that the price would not be more than P700 per dose.

Lacson said that if Galvez had been more transparent in answering their questions regarding the vaccine’s price, the senators’ suspicion would have died down immediately.

“So, the controversy is their own doing. It’s not the Senate, it’s not the senators. We’re performing our job, oversight. We did it in the Bureau of Customs, PhilHealth, and Bureau of Corrections. May nangyayari naman pag nag-iimbestiga kami in aid of legislation,” he added.

Meanwhile, Hontiveros reiterated that the country “should rely on our publicly trusted and independent vaccine expert panel to provide us the assessment and recommendation on what type and brand of vaccine is safe and effective for a particular group.”

However, Sinovac, the vaccine manufacturer which Duterte prefers, has not released any data on the efficacy of their vaccine. The latest trial results of the vaccine conducted in Brazil showed they were only 50.4% effective, just a little over the efficacy threshold of 50% to 60% set by the World Health Organization.

So far, the national government has inked deals for more than 90-million vaccine doses with various manufacturers.

Finalized deals include 30 million vaccine doses of Covovax, 25 million doses of Sinovac, 17 million doses of AstraZeneca and 20 million doses from Moderna.