AMID challenges in the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, Senator and chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go urged public officials to refrain from finger-pointing and, instead, work together to implement a whole-of-nation approach to overcome the crisis and help Filipinos recover more quickly.
He also earnestly asked fellow public servants to remain united and focused on dealing with the true enemy which is the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Huwag na po muna tayong magturuan at magsiraan pa. Ang problema diyan magkakasama kayo sa Gabinete, kayo pa ang nagtuturuan. Hindi po nakakatulong sa Duterte Administration kung kayu-kayo mismo ang nagtuturuan, kung sino ang may kasalanan,” Go said during an interview on Friday, December 18.
As he called on the public to cooperate with the government, Go also asked Secretary of Health Francisco Duque III to exercise accountability by explaining his actions with regard to the accusations thrown at him.
“Suportahan na lang natin ang ating mga health officials. Si Secretary Duque, kung mayroon ka mang pagkukulang, i-explain mo po sa publiko,” said Go.
“[Hindi] ko naman po masasabi kung mayroon tiwala o walang tiwala ang mga taumbayan sa kaniya pero ang ating Pangulo ay may tiwala sa kaniya. And prerogative ng Pangulo kung sino ang gusto niyang mamuno ng isang departamento,” clarified the Senator.
To boost public confidence and awareness on the COVID-19 vaccine roadmap, Go earlier urged the national government to conduct a massive information campaign to educate the public on the ongoing process that government is taking to secure safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for Filipinos.
“Huwag nating pabayaan ang mga ordinaryong Pilipino. Bigyan dapat ng tamang impormasyon ang publiko para hindi matakot at magkaroon ng confidence ukol sa mga vaccines na ito,” he emphasized previously.
Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Go have expressed their willingness to be one of the first to get a dose of the vaccine to encourage the public and allay fears on its safety and efficacy.
“[Kung] ‘di sigurado na safe ito, walang magpapaturok niyan. Takot ang Pilipinong magpaturok ng vaccine pag hindi nila nasisiguro safe po sila,” said the Senator.
As the chair of the Senate Committee on Health amid this ongoing pandemic, Go emphasized that one of my primary concerns is that vaccines against COVID-19 must be deemed safe and effective, and procured at the soonest time possible.
“Dapat tayong maging prudent dito sa pagpipili ng vaccine…Kahit napakararami ng supply ng vaccine pag ‘di naman tayo sigurado [na] safe ito, [sa] effectiveness at efficacy nito, hindi rin papayag ang Pilipino. So, ulitin natin, safety and efficacy po ng vaccine muna ang unahin para po makumbinsi natin ang mga Pilipino na magpaturok,” he reiterated.
Go told concerned officials to act swiftly while exercising due diligence to ensure the availability of safe and effective vaccines for Filipinos, especially the poor and vulnerable sectors who must be prioritized.
“Dapat po talaga na bilisan ang aksyon natin ukol dito pero siguraduhin na dumaan sa tamang proseso, masunod ang nakasaad sa ating mga batas, at ni piso sa pera ng bayan ay hindi masasayang,” he stressed.
“Alam kong mahirap ang pinapasan ninyong tungkulin at kayo’y nag-iingat din. Tama naman po iyan basta siguraduhin niyo lang na hindi mapag-iwanan ang ating bansa pagdating sa pagkuha ng bakuna,” he reminded officials.
Go also reminded that in every decision the government makes, the Filipino people deserve to know the truth since this is their government, it is their money that are being used, and it is their lives that are at stake.
“Kung anumang kakulangan ng ating mga opisyal, mananagot rin kayo sa taumbayan kapag napatunayang may kasalanan o kapabayaan po kayo. Huwag lang po sana tayo magsisihan dahil sa ngayon, importante na magtulungan po tayo at gawin na natin ang lahat ng ating makakaya para malutas ang krisis na dulot ng COVID-19,” he said.
Go also clarified that National Task Force chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. remains on top of all matters pertaining to the COVID-19 vaccine, including its procurement, processing, storage and distribution.
In a recent statement, Galvez said that the Philippine government is determined to acquire safe and effective vaccines for all Filipinos, regardless of brand or their country of origin.
“With this as our guiding principle, it is our duty as public servants to carefully study and evaluate all documents relative to the procurement and acquisition of candidate vaccines, especially when the public’s health and safety are at stake,” Galvez also said.
“As we take responsibility for our actions, we cannot afford to engage in finger-pointing or buck-passing at this crucial stage. These kinds of discussions are unproductive and will only distract us from carrying out our crucial mandate,” the vaccine czar added.
Galvez also emphasized that all the decisions and actions made are in accordance with the careful process of scientific evaluation and selection of the Vaccine Expert Panel.
Galvez assured the public that all transactions the government has entered into are being done with utmost transparency, sense of fairness, and accountability.
“The ball is being passed not because there are those who are abrogating responsibility but because we want it to reach the goal — to close deals and obtain vaccines for all Filipinos so that we can implement our national vaccination program at the most appropriate time,” he said in his statement.