Press Release
July 11, 2009

Pia: "Are Philippine laws now subject to negotiation?"

"Is the enforcement of Philippine laws now subject to bargaining and negotiations with the powers-that-be?"

This was the question raised by Senator Pia S. Cayetano, as she expressed concern over reports that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had struck a deal with big pharmaceutical companies in exchange for putting off the signing of an executive order that would set the maximum retail prices (MRP) of 22 essential drugs in accordance with the Cheaper Medicines Law (Republic Act 9502).

"It is Malacanang's legal and moral duty to reveal to the people the details of that reported meeting between President Arroyo and executives of big pharmaceutical companies. What exactly was given up in exchange for holding off her signing of the executive order?" she asked.

Cayetano, a principal co-author of RA 9502 with Sen. Manuel Roxas II, stressed that on their own, President Arroyo, Trade Secretary Peter Favila and Health Secretary Francisco Duque have no delegated authority to alter or revise what Congress had set forth in the cheaper medicines law.

"The provision on the setting up of the MRP is mandated under the law. The MRP on essential drugs should be set in black and white to ensure strict compliance and to protect the interest of ordinary Filipinos whose very lives depend on the shelf price of these essential drugs. There's nothing in the law that allows the Executive to suspend its enforcement in exchange for drug companies' commitment for 'voluntary compliance.'"

Cayetano also questioned the conflict of interest of Roberto Romulo, the Palace official who reportedly brokered the meeting last Wednesday. Romulo is presidential adviser on international competitiveness while also sitting as executive director of the International Board of Advisers and chairman of the Zuellig Family Foundation.

"Mr. Romulo insists we will send the wrong signal to the international business community once the EO is signed by the President. But on the contrary, by not signing the EO, we will actually send the wrong message to foreign investors that in the Philippines, our laws may be enforced selectively depending on who your connections are in Malacanang."

"May we remind Mr. Romulo and Mrs. Arroyo that it's the foreign investors and businessmen who rate the Philippines as one of the most corrupt in the region, precisely because of the perception that we can't enforce our laws and instead use it for blackmail and corrupt practices."

"Mrs. Arroyo is gravely mistaken in assuming that the enforcement of laws passed by Congress and signed by her are all subject to negotiation. It's time the government shows that our law may be harsh, but it's the law that applies to all. I wonder if the foreign investors that Mr. Romulo refers to have governments that can be talked into negotiating whether the law should be enforced or not."

News Latest News Feed