THE taxpaying public need to be vigilant in how the government would spend their money, particularly on its COVID response and vaccination program, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Wednesday.
Pangilinan, who spearheaded the move to convene the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on the government’s COVID vaccination program, said the government should be transparent in its plans for vaccine procurement to ensure that not a single peso is wasted or corrupted.
“Hindi pa tayo nakakabawi sa nawawalang 15-bilyon-pisong PhilHealth funds at sa pagwawaldas ng pera ng bayan sa Manila Bay white sands. Kailangan nating maging mapagbantay kung paano gagastusin ang pondo para sa bakuna, at maging ang buong pondo ng gobyerno (We are still reeling from the still unsolved issues of missing P15-billion PhilHeath funds and from other wanton spending of people’s money such as the Manila Bay white sands. We have to be vigilant to how the vaccine funds and all government funds will be disposed),” Pangilinan said.
“I believe that Secretary [Carlito] Galvez [chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19] will do his best to meet the people’s expectations of a corruption-free, effective, and timely government response. How I wish we could say the same of others in the IATF working with him. This is why the Senate must as representatives of the people guard against corruption and incompetence in the vaccine rollout,” he added.
For 2021, Congress has set aside a P72.5-billion appropriation for COVID vaccination under the national budget, which is still up for the president’s approval.
“Ngayon pa lang, may mga kwento-kwento na ng ‘dropping the ball’. Sino yung nag-drop ng ball? At bakit?” Pangilinan asked, referring to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin’s revelations about advanced orders from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.
He said government officials should assert the people’s right to vaccines, negotiating with mutual respect as governments that have equal need for the shots that would end this pandemic.
“No one country should have a monopoly of the vaccines because if the people from the other nations are not safe, then the entire world is not,” Pangilinan said.
The senator reiterated the importance of the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing in getting the needed information for a safe, effective, and corruption-free anti-COVID game plan.
On Monday, December 14, Pangilinan filed Senate Resolution 594 calling for the constitution of the Senate Committee of the Whole to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the national COVID-19 vaccination program. The hearing may be scheduled first half of January, subject to the approval of Senate President Vicente Sotto III.