Senators Panfilo Lacson and Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday hit back at President Rodrigo Duterte for criticizing them for asking about the country’s low vaccine supply despite obtaining billions of loans.
In his televised address on Monday, Duterte lambasted Lacson and Hontiveros for questioning where the COVID-19 vaccines procured by the government are, which would be funded by various international loans.
Duterte explained that the loans for the vaccine procurement are still with the lending banks.
“If you are afraid of corruption, let your mind go easy because these things are not susceptible to anything. The money is in the hands of the banks and they collect — ’yong nagpabili sa atin ng bakuna — from the bank, hindi sa atin,” he said.
But in a text message to GMA News Online, Lacson said he was not asking where these funds are or where it went.
He also slammed Duterte for his “twisted answer” to his “simple question” of where the vaccines are.
“Simple question: ‘NASAAN KA BAKUNA?’ Twisted answer: ‘DADATING NA YUNG BABAYARAN NATIN NA MGA BAKUNA, DOON PA SILA DAPAT MAGTANONG KUNG NASAAN NA YUNG PERA.’ Bakit defensive?” Lacson said in a tweet.
(Simple question: ‘Where are you vaccines?’ Twisted answer: ‘The vaccines that we procured are about to arrive, that’s when they should ask where the funds are.’ Why so defensive?)
For her part, Hontiveros said there was nothing new on what Duterte said on Monday about where the funds are, but she believes that the money still being with the banks is “half truth.”
“I am not looking for the money that is still with the ADB (Asian Development Bank), AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) and World Bank for the vaccines. Higit kalahating trilyon ang inutang na sinasabing para sa COVID-19 response. Where’s the rest of it, kailan natin mararamdaman yan?” she said.
(More than half a trillion pesos are said to be for the COVID-19 response. Where’s the rest of it, when can we feel that?)
“This is about accountability to the public. We have been calling for all of these for more than a year already: test, trace, treat, isolate and now vaccinate,” she added.
Hontiveros also criticized the government for “controlling” the vaccine procurement and yet none of the government-procured vaccines have arrived.
“That is also why as early as the second quarter of the pandemic I insisted we conduct a special and wider audit so that we can learn from our mistakes,” she said.
“We badly need to check if the funds have been used wisely. What isn’t measured cannot be managed. What have we actually accomplished in this one year?” she added.
The country has so far secured $900 million in loans (approximately P43.65 billion) — $400 million from the Asian Development Bank and $500 million from the World Bank — to help fund its purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the country has allocated a total of P82.5 billion for vaccine, logistics and other supplies, including waste disposal, as part of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.
Of the P82.5 billion, P2.5 billion will come from the budget of the Department of Health; P10 billion from the funds set aside for Bayanihan 2 Act; and P70 billion from various loans and financing.
The loans will come from the World Bank (P24.3 billion); Asian Development Bank (P19.5 billion); and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (P14.6 billion). The remaining P11.6 billion will come from Official Development Assistance funds. — RSJ, GMA News