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What the fudge DOH?

THE Department headed by Secretary Francisco Duque is under fire anew amid the controversy surrounding its supposed discriminatory policy in the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.

A non-government organization founded by US billionaire Michael Bloomberg is being linked to the controversial circular issued by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Department of Health (DOH) in 2010 that now threatens to stop tobacco companies and other industries from procuring or donating Covid-19 vaccines.

The CSC and DOH Joint Memorandum Circular 2010-1 is now being cited by the DOH in issuing another administrative order to exclude tobacco companies and other “industries in conflict with public health” from availing of COVID-19 vaccines from the government.

Under the DOH proposed AO, the National Task Force Against COVID-19 and the DOH “shall review all request of private entities to procure vaccines to ensure that private entities who will be part of the agreement are not in any way related to the tobacco industry, products covered under EO 51 series of 1986 or the ‘National Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, Supplement and Other Related Products’, or other products in conflict with public health.

Rep. Jericho Nograles revealed last week that JMC 2010-01 was issued in 2010, or the same year the DOH received a grant amounting to $369,000 from the anti-tobacco NGO Bloomberg Initiative for tobacco control policy.

Nograles disclosed this in a Congressional hearing investigating whether Bloomberg’s grant money also influenced the Food and Drug Administration in drafting the regulations on vapes and heated tobacco products.

Months before the issuance of the JMC 2010-1, Sec. Francisco Duque III was appointed as CSC chairman after his tenure as DOH secretary (2005 to 2009). Duque returned to DOH as secretary in 2017.

When asked by Nograles on the CSC’s stand about JMC 2010-1, CSC Assistant Commissioner Ariel Ronquillo said the “commission is in the process of revisiting the JMC” to study its legality and propriety.

Alarmed by the proposed policy, Foreign Affair Secretary Teodoro Locsin said a “village idiot is preparing an administrative order prohibiting these companies from procuring and donating vaccines to their employees and the government.

Locsin said “it is one thing to discourage smoking or lactose intolerance, and quite another to destroy the livelihood and the lives of people who depend on the tobacco, milk, sugar and soda companies which pay more taxes than the directors of PhilHealth have stolen.

Lawmakers described the DOH policy as “illegal”. Rep. Michael Defensor scolded the department for allegedly usurping the power of Congress and discriminating against several private corporations and their employees in the COVID-19 vaccination drive.

Congress never meant to discriminate against any industry when we passed the law establishing the COVID-19 vaccination program, precisely because we recognize that government needs the help of the entire private corporate sector in quickly immunizing as many Filipinos as possible,” Defensor said.

We have to accept the fact that these industries also employ tens of thousands of Filipinos who need vaccination,” Defensor said.

House Deputy Speaker Bernadette Herrera said all Filipinos have rights to be vaccinated. “Why will you discriminate against these companies and their employees? Wala ba silang karapatan na ma-vaccinate eh Filipino rin naman sila?” she said.

So what the fudge DOH?


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