Press Release
July 13, 2009


The conspirators, who sought to postpone through a Palace meeting the signing of the executive order on the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) for 22 essential medicines, boycotted the joint congressional hearing today.

This prompted congressional leaders, led by Quality Affordable Medicines Oversight Committee Co-Chair Senator Mar Roxas, to question what seems to be Malacañang's revival of the curse of Executive Order No. 464, which he described as an unconstitutional instrument of government opacity.

"'Manigas kayo!' Iyan ang sinasabi sa atin ng Malakanyang. Kakausapin namin kahit na sino, makikipag-usap kami kahit laban pa ito sa interest ng taumbayan. Inabandona na talaga nila ang kapakanan ng taumbayan, ('Freeze to death!' This is what Malacañang is telling us: We will talk with whoever we want to talk to, we will deal with anyone, even if such would compromise public interest)," an irked Roxas blurted out during the oversight committee hearing yesterday into the July 8 'confidential' meeting between President Arroyo and giant pharmaceutical firms in the country.

"Pinawalang-bisa na ng Korte Suprema itong EO 464 na ito. Ano't hanggang ngayon ay ipinipilit pa rin ito ng Malakanyang? Talaga bang wala ng respeto ang gobyernong ito sa ating mga batas? (The Supreme Court has declared EO 464 as unconstitutional. Why then is Malacañang insisting on invoking it again? Does government no longer respect existing laws?)," he stressed.

"Bakit wala sila para sabihin ang nangyari sa meeting noong isang linggo? May hokus-pokus bang pinag-usapan? Under-the-table deals? Nasaan na ang public accountability? Public office is a public trust. Ito 'yung sinumpaan nina Secretary Duque at Secretary Favila´┐Żnaniniwala pa ba sila dito? (Why are they not here to report on the meeting that transpired last week? Were there any under-the-table deals discussed? Where is the principle of public accountability in all this? Public office is a public trust. Do Secretary Duque and Secretary Favila still believe in this?)," the Liberal Party President asked.

His outburst came after Health Secretary Francisco Duque and Trade Secretary Peter Favila did not appear in Monday's hearing, sending word through DOH Head Executive Assistant Dr. Robert So that they had received verbal instructions not to attend the hearing until they get clearance from Malacañang.

So claimed Duque was already on his way to the Senate when he got the call. Even DOH Undersecretary Alexander Padilla, who was seen at the Senate before the hearing started, left without any word.

There were neither representatives from the office of President Arroyo, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Joaquin Lagonera, who have been invited to the hearing. Ermita instead sent a letter claiming that "there was no sufficient time" for them to "adequately and properly" prepare for the hearing.

Industry giant Pfizer Philippines also did not send a representative, claiming that Pfizer managers asked to attend have prior commitments and out-of-town trips that could not be rescheduled.

Testimonies given during the oversight hearing indicated the July 8 meeting was "organized" by Pfizer. There was also a revelation that a meeting between industry players and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita was also facilitated by Pfizer last July 2.

"They insist on denying any wrongdoing in the media, but I challenge them to do this under oath. Dito tayo mag-usap. (Let us talk here.) Come here and tell the truth. Ano ba ang mas mahalaga sa inyo--buhay ng tao, na maililigtas sana ng mas murang gamot, o 'yung posisyon ninyo sa gobyerno? (Which is more important to you? People's lives, which can be saved with cheaper medicines, or your positions in government?)" he added.

He challenged: "Mrs. President, kung wala ka namang itinatago, sabihin mo sa Gabinete mo, pumunta dito. (If you have nothing to hide, tell your Cabinet men to come here). Come here and tell the truth."

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