The Philippines would have been in line to receive 10 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in January 2021, if Health Secretary Francisco Duque III had not “dropped the ball” on an arrangement passed onto him by other officials, said Senator Panfilo Lacson.
In a cryptic tweet on Thursday, December 17, Lacson shared what he called a “direct quote.”
“In July, we passed the ball to him. Instead of aiming at the hoop, he scratched his balls so he dropped the ball even as time was running out. Then, Singapore grabbed and shot the ball,” Lacson said.
The senator then capped off his tweet, “Now, they have the vaccines and we don’t.”
Rappler asked Lacson to clarify whom he was quoting in his tweet, but he has yet to reply to our query as of this posting.
However, the previous night, he sent reporters a message in which he mentioned Duque in relation to an earlier tweet by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr, who said someone had “dropped the ball” in making arrangements with Pfizer for the vaccines.
Citing a phone conversation he had with Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez, Lacson said Locsin and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were already negotiating “as early as July,” as arranged by Romualdez.
“Thus, they could have secured the delivery of 10 million Pfizer vaccines as early as January next year, way ahead of Singapore, but for the indifference of Secretary Duque, who failed to work on the necessary documentary requirement namely, the Confidentiality Disclosure Agreement (CDA) as he should have done,” Lacson said.
Even Pfizer’s country representative had been following up on the CDA but to no avail, he added.
Lacson then lamented how many lives will have been saved if the Pfizer vaccines were made available to Filipinos by January 2021. Although Duque claimed ongoing talks between the pharmaceutical company and the government, Lacson said the Philippines already missed what would have been the early first salvo of deliveries of the vaccines.
If it is true that Duque “dropped the ball” in arrangements for the Pfizer vaccine, then he may be sued for “gross and inexcusable negligence under the anti-graft law,” said Senator Francis Pangilinan on Thursday.
The Senate Committee of the Whole is set to hold a legislative inquiry into the government’s plans on rolling out COVID-19 vaccines. Pangilinan said this will be crucial not only in checking the readiness of those plans, but also in ferreting out any attempts at overpricing.
“Millions of lives are at stake here,” Pangilinan said.
Duque on Wednesday denied he had been negligent in the matter, and said negotiations with Pfizer for the vaccines are still underway.
Peace Process Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr, the country’s COVID-19 vaccine czar and chief implementer of policies on the pandemic, earlier said Pfizer’s vaccine may arrive in the Philippines by the 3rd quarter of 2021 at the earliest, along with the bulk of other vaccines eyed by the government.