Aquino wants more answers from Ona
MANILA, Philippines – Health Secretary Enrique Ona needs to do more explaining.
President Benigno Aquino III appears dissatisfied with his explanation why the health department procured Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine 10 (PCV 10) instead of a supposedly more cost-effective PCV 13.
The purchase by the Department of Health (DOH) of a million units of PCV 10 used for the immunization of infants and children against pulmonary diseases cost over P833 million.
“They went to PCV13, so one must assume that there was a legitimate reason to go from 10 to 13. Now, what became controversial was the succeeding year, they went from 13 back to 10,” Aquino said.
If department officials chose to shift vaccines, there should have been a legitimate reason, the President pointed out. “Eh bakit kayo lumipat to begin with kung hindi pa kayo klaro kung alin ang maganda?” (Why did you choose to shift when you weren’t clear which was better?)
Aquino said he had asked several DOH officials who included undersecretaries, an assistant secretary and a consultant – all of whom he did not identify – to explain.
“Tapos iyon na ’yung parang medyo jargon na ’yung sagot,” he said. (And then that’s when the reply became full of jargon.)
Earlier, complainants went straight to the Office of the President to call his attention to the procurement, which was said to have been “directed” by Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag, and “made possible by a certificate of exemption issue” by Ona in 2012.
Quoting complainants, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the procurement was made contrary to the “recommendation of the National Center for Pharmaceutical Access and Management, the Formulary Executive Council and the World Health Organization.”
The National Bureau of Investigation was ordered to investigate the vaccine procurement and several other cases. According to the President, at least two investigations of 3 or 4 other issues have been completed. “I am waiting for my copy,” he said, referring to investigation reports.
Aquino refused to specify what the 3 or 4 other issues were, saying that it seems clear that “there are interests that want to preserve the status quo.” He said he did not want to aid those with an interest to muddle the issues by specifying what the focus of the probes are.
“At the appropriate time, once it’s completed and charges are called for, then that will be the opportunity for them to respond,” Aquino said.
Ona is still on leave after the Palace had advised him to extend it, pending the results of the investigations.
He submitted to the Palace 3 thick volumes explaining decisions made on several issues, including the procurement of vaccines. After reading through the cover letter, Aquino said he turned over the “mala-PLDT na 3 volumes” (3 volumes as thick as a PLDT [Philippine Long Distance Telephone] directory) to the investigating body.
Ona was also taken to task for clinical trials he ordered in September involving the controversial ActRx TriAct, an anti-dengue treatment. The drug has not yet been registered with the Food and Drug Administration as food, drug, or supplement. – Rappler.com