By Macon Araneta

While other countries have already started administering anti-Covid-19 shots to their nationals and residents, Senate President Vicente Sotto III asked why the Philippines still does not have the vaccine.

He plans to set out for  January 11 hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole to check on the government’s roll-out program on Covid-19 vaccine. 

“I’ll consult my peers first. The original question of the hearing is “Bakit wala pa tayong Vaccine?” Kailan at paanong distribute at paano storage?” said Sotto.

“By the way, how are they sure that anti-Covid (vaccine) was used and not anti-flu?  Di ba? How did PRRD know it was anti-Covid? Was there a  lab report? Which lab? “ further questioned Sotto. 

Sotto was reacting to the reports of smuggled anti-Covid-19.

Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan  supported Vice-president Leni Robredo’s call for a transparent investigation of the unregistered vaccines given to some members of the military and the President’s security personnel.

“Why did they keep secret the vaccination? This should be celebrated because this is good news, unless there was an illegal  transaction,” Pangilinan said.

“An honest and transparent investigation of the so-called smuggled vaccines and a credible result will bring back the confidence of the people in the government’s vaccination program. Dapat maparusahan ang gumagawa at nag-uutos ng iligal,” he added.

The Senator said the inoculation of the military and the President’s guards made a mockery of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has been working hard to find safe vaccines for the Filipinos against Covid-19.

It also endangers the military personnel inoculated since unauthorized vaccines still lack the safety and efficacy requirements, he explained.

Pangilinan pointed out anew that the incident raised questions about who should get the vaccines first.

On December 14, the Senate approved Pangilinan’s Senate Resolution 594 asking the Senate Committee of the Whole to look into the government’s national Covid-19 vaccination program.

Senate interventions have put some order into the government’s pandemic response. These include, among others:

* Bayanihan 1, which originally included draconian measures giving the Executive powers to shut down and take over private facilities;

* The reorganization at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) after the PHP15-billion scam at the national insurer was exposed during a Senate hearing;

* The drop in the prices of test kits by about 25 percent after minority senators pushed for the approval of the cheaper, world-class local test kits.

For 2021, Congress has set aside a PHP72.5-billion appropriation for Covid vaccination under the national budget, which was recently signed into law by the President.