"While other countries have started inoculating their citizens, we are still talking about vaccines."
Santa Banana, the “who” and “how” of the entry of an unofficial and unregistered vaccine administered to a very select few like the Presidential Security Group (PSG), some sectors of the military, and members of the Cabinet are getting murkier. The issue has become an enigma!
Those vaccines from China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac can only be smuggled through Customs. The Senate probe must first begin with Customs. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that smuggling at Customs, a corrupt government agency, has become almost a routine. My gulay, if illegal drugs worth billions of pesos can go through Customs under the very noses of Customs officials, vaccines can just as easily pass through.
But, the “who” must be known. As I said, the picture gets murkier with Chinatown’s civic leader Teresita Ang See saying that some 100,000 Chinese expatriates, including workers for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), have also been administered the smuggled vaccines.
This phenomenon brings to forth the existence of a black market for the Chinese vaccines and even the proliferation of counterfeit vaccines, my gulay!
We need to investigate this matter. It would be good if Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante of the Presidential Security Group could answer many of our questions. But since President Duterte, commander of the Armed Forces, said Durante would not provide any help to the probe, senators must look elsewhere.
There are many angles to this enigma. For one thing, it would take a professional medical practitioner to administer the right doses to anybody. That means that the probe must find out who administered those vaccines.
As a result of the President’s intervention, the Food and Drug Administration coining a new term for the approval for the vaccines that the PSG got -- a “compassionate permit.” The FDA law in Sections 11 and 12 prohibits the import, export sale and distribution of any food or drug which had not been cleared by the FDA. I can’t blame the FDA for accommodating the PSG since it is also under the executive branch of the government.
Just how this probe of the Senate will go is anybody’s guess. We now have a circus when other countries are already doing mass inoculations. Here, we are talking about smuggling. Only in the Philippines!
To fast track the entry of other vaccines brands like AstraZeneca from the United Kingdom, Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna from the United States, the private sector and Local Government Units (LGUs) are scrambling to procure vaccines by themselves.
There must be proper coordination with the national government. And my gulay, this is where vaccine czar Carlito Galvez comes in – that is, if he knows what his job entails.
LGUs and city mayors cannot procure the vaccines on their own even if they can afford it, because the proper protocols must be observed. In other words, there must be a clear roadmap in doing these things.
What is really important at this point in time is the fast track of entry of vaccines properly approved by the FDA and administered by professional medical practitioners.
What bothers me is the finding by surveys that only 45 percent of the residents of the National Capital Region (NCR) would like to be inoculated with the vaccine. Is this accurate? This means the urgent need for the proper education and information by the government.
It all springs from the fact that vaccines in the Philippines have had a bad record like the vaccination of Dengvaxia for the treatment of dengue fever which resulted in the loss of lives of school children.
The problem as I know it is that there have been no clear plans, much less a roadmap for the proper entry and administration of vaccines of whatever brand. As a result, it seems that the government acts only when there’s a problem. Government acts only after the fact.
The controversy over the renewal of the 25-year franchise of the Lopez-owned ABS-CBN does not seem to die with the filing of a bill at the Senate by no less than Senate President Tito Sotto for its renewal.
The bill could become another controversy since it is the House of Representatives where the renewal of the franchise should start. And it is the House legislative franchise committee that should consider the bill granting the renewal of a franchise.
We all know that the House is controlled by President Duterte, who last year was the reason why the House failed to grant ABS-CBN its new franchise.
This is aside from the fact that there are still pending bills in the House seeking the grant of the 25-year franchise. And all the sponsors of the bills have to be refiled.
The proponents of the renewal, all those with bleeding hearts for the 11,000 workers who were all laid off with the closure of the network believe that under Speaker Lord Allan Velasco the renewal of Lopez network would be granted.
But, as I said, it all depends on the President since he has full control of the House. Whether or not the House is under a new Speaker is totally immaterial.
Onli in da Pilipins, indeed!