THE national government should go after Covid fund vampires in overpriced Pharmally contracts, not ordinary citizens who are unvaccinated due to various reasons including inaccessibility of vaccines, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Wednesday.
Pangilinan said the P7.5 billion Pantawid Pasada Program in this year’s budget can be used to provide free rides to the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, especially essential workers.
“Merong P7.5 billion na pwedeng gamitin para magkaroon ng libreng sakay para sa mga unvaxxed o partially vaxxed, lalong-lalo na ang mga essential workers,” said Pangilinan, who increased coverage for the 2022 national budget during deliberations last year.
The senator made this suggestion on the third day of the national government’s implementation of its “no-vaccination, no-ride” policy, which Pangilinan earlier described as targeted harassment against the poor.
“Lalo lang nating pinaparusahan ang mga ordinaryong mamamayan sa patuloy na pag-impose nitong no-vaccination, no-ride scheme na klarong-klaro kontra-mahirap,” Pangilinan said, even as he welcomed the exemption of workers from the policy.
“Dapat habulin ang mga mala-bampirang sumisipsip sa pondo natin sa pamamagitan ng mga overpriced contracts tulad ng sa Pharmally. Malala ang nakawan, pati maysakit ninanakawan,” he added.
The lawmaker is referring to anomalous contracts signed between the national government and Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation in 2020.
Based on the investigation of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, Pharmally sold overpriced thermometers, goggles, and face shields to the Department of Transportation. The price range was on average 62% to 68% higher than the company’s price catalog.
Pangilinan said the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings last year uncovered how a small and newly created company like Pharmally amassed billions from the government’s pandemic funds by selling overpriced products.
“Imagine selling thermometers at P3,200 per unit, goggles at P212.50 per unit, and face shields at P179.50 per unit when your company’s price catalogue of the same only range at P1,999, P149-159, and P95 to P109, respectively? Halang ang bituka,” Pangilinan said.
“Ang dapat pinagtutuunan ng pansin ay ang mga taong nakinabang sa korapsyon na ito at hindi ang ordinaryong mamamayan,” he added.
As the national government remains deaf to the clamor of ordinary citizens, Pangilinan continues to call for effective Covid response, which includes conducting free testing and making vaccination convenient for people who might have difficulty accessing the same.
“Uulitin ko lang muli, kung talagang seryoso ang gobyerno sa pag-resolba ng Covid, dapat mayroong free testing, epektibong contact tracing, at madaling access sa bakuna para sa mga hindi pa bakunado. At huwag nakawan ang maysakit,” Pangilinan said.
Earlier, Pangilinan said free-vaccination hubs must be set up in strategic places like bus terminals and other public places to make inoculation accessible especially to those who cannot afford to be absent from work.