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‘Walk out if you feel abused’

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Malacañang on Wednesday said that President Rodrigo Duterte has advised Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to walk out of the Senate hearing on Friday if they feel that the senators are abusing them verbally on the conduct of questions related to the Covid jabs.

In an interview, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte authorized Galvez and Duque to appear anew in the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing investigating the Covid vaccine deal between the government and China’s Sinovac.

In fairness to the President, his answer was go to the Senate, continue answering questions, and if they become abusive to you verbally, just stand up and leave.

Roque added that Galvez complained before the President that because of the Senate hearings, he has lost at least two weeks-worth of negotiations with drug suppliers and asked if he could skip the hearing.

“But in fairness to the President, his answer was ‘go to the Senate, continue answering questions, and if they become abusive to you verbally, just stand up and leave. And if they cite you in contempt, I will come and fetch you,’” Roque said.

He added that prior to the scheduled hearing on Friday, there will be informal talks between Galvez and some senators.

Earlier, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Galvez agreed to an executive session as he enumerated conditions for the closed-door meeting with the senators.

“What Secretary Galvez suggested was not just an executive session but it was also a CDA (confidentiality disclosure agreement) between the individual senators and the drug companies,” he added.

Roque maintained that Galvez cannot disclose the exact amount of Sinovac as it will violate the CDA signed by the government with the Chinese drug company.

“In the spirit of transparency, we gave a range and of course, I don’t think this violates the CDA but for Secretary Galvez to say the exact price would be a violation of that CDA,” he said.

Both Roque and Galvez said that the price of each dose of Sinovac is between P650 to P700.

At the same time, Roque said Duterte was referring to Senator Risa Hontiveros’ statement when he alleged that senators were allegedly favoring another vaccine over Sinovac.

“The President had with him a piece of paper containing quotes from the senators and he was quoting — in fact — a quote from Senator Risa Hontiveros, so that’s where it came from,” Roque noted.

Lacson said that the senators will be bound by the secrecy rule if an executive session with Galvez pushes through on Friday’s hearing.

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