BY RAYMOND AFRICA and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR
SEN. Francis Pangilinan yesterday defended Vice President Leni Robredo who was hit anew by President Duterte for egging him to get inoculated with vaccines made by Sinovac Biotech, a private Chinese firm.
The CoronaVac vaccines, which were donated by China and shipped to the country on Sunday, were used at the launch of the national vaccination program on Monday.
Duterte has expressed preference for another Chinese vaccine, made by state-owned Sinopharm, which applied for emergency use authorization just last Monday but had been used last year to inoculate members of Duterte’s security detail, the Presidential Security Group.
“COVID ang problema, hindi si VP Leni ((The problem is COVID, not VP Leni),” Pangilinan said as he noted Robredo has been tirelessly helping various sectors affected by the pandemic and finding solutions to the COVID problem.
“Eye on the ball… Ang letrang V na tutukan ay ang virus at hindi ang VP (Eye on ball… The letter V which should be focused on is the virus, not the VP),” he also said.
Pangilinan, an official of the Liberal Party like Robredo, said the President, instead of censuring or criticizing the Vice President, should find lasting solutions to the COVID-19 problem so the Philippines can be at par with other Asian countries.
The Philippines is the last to start the immunization program in Southeast Asia.
Duterte, in an address on Monday night, said Robredo was “baiting” him because she suspects he has been inoculated with Sinopharm, together with the PSG members, last year.
Duterte, who is turning 77, reiterated he would his doctor on what vaccine that would be fit for his age.
Sinopharm is the sixth vaccine maker to apply for EUA with the Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA has approved the vaccines of Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Sinovac for emergency use. Applications of Gamaleya and Bharat are undergoing evaluation.
FDA Director General Eric Domingo said the Sinovac application was filed on Monday.
“We did check online. And yesterday (Monday) afternoon, an application has been sent for an EUA for Sinopharm,” he said adding the application is ongoing preliminary assessment.
“We are looking at the documents now to see if the documents are complete or if there are any documents that need to be submitted before we officially accept the application,” he said.
The FDA previously granted a compassionate special permit (CSP) for the Presidential Security Group to use Sinopharm shots.
Special presidential envoy to China Ramon Tulfo has admitted to receiving smuggled Sinopharm vaccines last year, along with other unnamed Cabinet officials.
Duterte, in his weekly “Talk to the People” address, dared Robredo to find COVID vaccines.
He said Robredo was trying to be “relevant” in continuing to criticize the government.
“Sige ka lang salita diyan, wala ka namang ginagawa, sige ka issue-issue ng statement. Do you know what? Because you want to be relevant here. Gusto mong sumali sa laro na para mapakinggan ka rin (Just keep on talking, because you are not doing anything, just issue statements. Do you know what? Because you want to be relevant here. You want to join and be heard),” he said.
The President said he is losing his patience with Robredo and their word war as he described the Vice President as having an “angel face with a devilish mind.” – With Gerard Naval