FAIR COMMENT | Alito L. Malinao
The hearing by the Senate committee of the whole on the reported smuggling of the coronavirus vaccine that started last Monday will be another futile exercise and unnecessary especially since we are still in the midst of the pandemic.
If anything will come out of it, it will be another publicity stunt for some senators who are drooling for the highest post in the land in the elections in 2022 just over a year from now.
After Mr. Duterte exercised his executive privilege to bar the commandant of the Presidential Security Group to attend the hearings, the Senate should have scrapped them.
Earlier, the Senate announced that the hearings will focus on alleged vaccine smuggling from China but after the President’s strong admonition on the PSG to shut up, Senate President Vicente Sotto III meekly announced that the hearings will now be mainly on the long delay in the procurement of the anti-COVID vaccines.
But it will be inevitable that vaccine smuggling will crop up and if it will, it could open a can of worms that would involve some top officials of the government.
We all know that not just members of the PSG have been vaccinated by the China-made vaccines but also some top officials in the Cabinet and in Congress. It would be interesting if someone in the hearing would ask Senator Panfilo Lacson and Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, rumored to have been vaccinated by the smuggled vaccine, to deny under oath that they have indeed been inoculated. Lacson, for his part, when asked about the rumor, just answered with his signature Mona Lisa smile, neither confirming nor denying the rumor.
On the vaccine purchase delay, it would be interesting what Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez, a former AFP chief, would say. The fact is while some other countries, including Singapore and Indonesia, have already vaccinated millions of their citizens in the Philippines we are still negotiating with vaccine companies. Galvez has said that imported vaccines would not be ready before May this year or five months from now.
By that time, hundreds of Filipinos would have been infected or have died from the virus.
President Duterte, in his latest address to the nation wherein he told the PSG to boycott the Senate hearing, has said that the vaccines will be available in March. It is interesting to find out if Galvez would back up the President’s assertion and how he can do it.
If it wants to prevent the spread of the virus, the Senate leadership should consider going on an extended recess for the duration of the pandemic. The Senate building is cavernous, including its session hall, the ceiling low and the hallways narrow. It has a centralized air-conditioning system so there is no way for the contaminated air to escape.
No wonder four senators have already been infected with the virus, Migz Zubiri, Sonny Angara, Aquilino Pimentel III, and Ronald Dela Rosa. Fortunately, the four have recovered but there is always the second time and this could be deadly.
The glass cages installed in the session hall to protect the senators could not help because the air possibly carrying the virus would still be circulating around.
Thus, it would be worth considering by the Senate leadership to temporarily suspend sessions and have virtual sessions and hearings.