Press Release
February 25, 2021


Q: We have a lot of topics to talk about but Gusto ko lang isingit sana itong nangyari sa gabi because you know when you look at this video, well nakakatakot po, it happened before 6pm it was a one-hour shootout between a police, a QCPD and a PDEA. I just want to get your quick reaction on it.

SRH: Well as they said, it was an unfortunate, or very unfortunate, I would say a very very unfortunate incident. Condolences to the families of the two who were killed and I really hope that the four injured and reportedly in hospital, we don't know whether seriously or slightly, I hope that they will recover but they say a misencounter and the NCRPO said that hindi ito yung unang pagkakataong nangyari ito, maraming beses na raw. My goodness no. These misencounters should be rare than marami or even common and the NCRPO Chief said that may coordination naman daw they are procedures to be followed and I really hope that the Board of Inquiry that they've reportedly formed will get to the bottom of what happened. Why a misencounter again? Sabi nila this is not the first time this has happened and how could it have transpired at al in the first place? And why did it take one hour hindi ba pwedeng magkalinawan even within the first few minutes that a misencounter breaks out. Sabi rin ng NCRPO Chief baka hindi lang sila nagkaamuyan kaagad. Well, maybe it shouldn't take an hour in order to save their own lives and prevent danger to the public.

Q: Very hard to really get at the bottom of what happened here because kulang pa nga po tayo ng impormasyon in fact we are trying to get anyone from PDEA, from the police to speak out about this. I believe they will have a press conference later this afternoon but you know what we know so far is you're looking at two groups: the QCPD and the PDEA and both are saying they are involved in a drug operation or a buy bust operation, sila yung nanghuhuli sa buy bust yung isa naman sinabi sila ung nanghuhuli ng buy bust kaya ang mangyayari po dito, it's one group's word against the other.

SRH: Right in a way it's like a 'he said, she said' but In the end, the Board of Inquiry will have to tell the public the full and true story as they can discover it. Including nasaan yung nile-legitimate drug operation or nasaan yung bina-buy bust operation. Sino sila? All those details just to put the public's midn and heart at rest about the very dramatic. traumatic so-called misencounter that happened last night.

Q: Let's go to the vaccines. Sinovac donated vaccines. We're looking at two batches here, two kinds of agreements. One is the donation, one is the procurement. I just wanna talk about donation first of 600,000 apparently it is set to arrive, possibly, according to Ms. Helen Yang of Sinovac, it is possible this week or even next week pero minamadali na raw nila ito. But the fact is, this would be the first batch of vaccines that the Philippines will be receiving. Is this a welcome development for you?

SRH: It's welcome in the sense that when the vaccines finally arrive, that donation, the timetable will stop being a moving target kasi noong una sinabi nila Feb 15 ang rollout ng vaccination program and then they said okay it's delayed, but Sinovac will be the first vaccines, the donated batch of 600,000 to arrive on the 26th which is tomorrow. Now, Ms. Yang says possibly next week. So galaw nang galaw.

Pangalawa, finally the FDA issued and Emergency Use Authorization for Sinovac earlier this week and I appreciate yung effort ng FDA to add to a slowly growing shortlist of vaccines given EUAs, nauna na yung Pfizer and Astra Zeneca and now we have the Sinovac. I also appreciate gabay o payo na ibinigay ng FDA na itong Sinovac may EUA na siya pero mas indicated daw siya for healthy adults within the 18-59-years old age range at hindi raw siya recommended for healthcare workers na heavily-exposed on a daily basis sa mga COVID-19 patients natin dahil mataas daw ang viral load at saka long hours ang exposure sa ganyan gsetting at hindi sasapat ang efficacy ng Sinovac sa ganyang setting.

Nananawagan ako sa FDA at sa buong IATF and National Task Force bilisan yung pagprocure din ng mga vaccines na pupwede sa ating mga healthcare workers kasi sila yung priority sa vaccine prioritization masterlist na inilabas na rin ng DOH but if FDA says that Sinovac na mukhang unang darating, the first 600,000 bukod pa sa 25 million na ipo-procure, kung yan ang unang darating, e baka hindi masunod ang prioritization list ng DOH. So, bilisan at galingan ang pagprocure ng mga vaccines na bagay sa ating mga healthcare workers so that the NTF can remain faithful to the vaccine masterlist na sila rin mismo ang nag-issue even if ang mauunang darating, isang donasyon ay hindi recommended para sa healthcare workers and I hope that FDA and DOH will release the full findings of their research about Sinovac, at saka sa pag-administer nito, pag iaadminister na ito sa iba't ibang sektor ng populasyon that there be a stringent screening process at saka full information and choice talaga, informed choice ng pasyente or ng tao na tatanggap ng vaccine na ito, particular na vaccine.

Q: It's interesting that you appreciate yung tinatawag ni President through Secretary Roque na colatilla na inilagay ng FDA, I spoke with FDA Director General Eric Domingo yesterday sabi ko nga, nagulat ba kayo sa concerns ng ilan bakit ganoon? Bakit may not recommended for? You know, he was saying na based on their study, gaya po ng inyong what you explained, it is better for healthier individuals and not especially the healthcare workers directly treating other COVID -19 patients, because you have other senators who are not very happy with this colatilla that the FDA had issued but Secretary Roque also yesterday was saying while this is not recommended, sabi niya healthcare workers can still opt to get vaccinated if they want to. Do you think this is a sound suggestion? Coming from the FDA saying, 'sandali ha, wag muna sa mga healthcare workers directly treating COVID-19 patients and then Secretary Roque was saying while it is not recommended, healthcare workers can be given the choice to be vaccinated by Sinivac or not.

SRH: Parang si Secretary Roque is trying to be Pope-ish that the Pope. Kasi kung ako ang pasyente, or taong hindi doctor, hindi ako healthcare worker, pakikinggan ko ba ang FDA na nagbigay ng ganitong EUA but with that colatilla? Na naintindihan ko rin yung ibang colleagues ko na hindi masyadong masaya, pero sinabi yun ng FDA makikinig ba ako sa kanila o kay Sec Roque na hindi naman healthcare worker o sa ating mga healthcare workers na of course, in the end, choice nila iyon.

Palagay ko, dahil gusto natin na evidence-based dapat yung ating COVID-19 response, I would continue to appreciate yung pagbibigay ng EUA plus additional advise ng FDA at yung decision ng mga healthcare workers I would gues na yung kaisipan at desisyon ng mga healthcare workers ay mas malapit sa FDA kaysa sa Sec Roque.

Q: What about what was also said during the press briefing that there is a plan that when the vaccines Sinovac arrived, magkakaroon ng simple ceremony and in fact, I believe that the President would want to be there upon the arrival of the vaccine. Basically, Secretary Roque was saying� Filipino tayo at tumatanaw din naman tayo ng utang na loob, hence, that's why, possibly, the President would wanna be there pagdating ng mga SInovac vaccines.

SRH: I have no problem with that. Wala akong away sa mga seremonya, wala akong away sa ugali nating mga Pilipino ng utang na loob, but you know the more important is to back up any ceremonies with solid, concrete actions on the ground and speaking of utang na loob, ang pinakamataas na utang na loob dito sa sitwasyon na ito ay sa ating mga healthcare workers mismo. Those who've been putting their lives on the line. Some of them getting sick, some of them dying, since the first day of the pandemic.

So, in faithfulness to the prioritization list of the DOH, dapat talaga bilisan ng NTF ang pagprocure ng mga vaccines na bagay at poprotekta sa ating mga healthcare workers. The recoveries we've also been experiencing in this last one year of the pandemic are due mostly, mostly to none other than our healthcare workers. Protektahan naman natin sila. Let's put out money where our mouth is. Hindi lang seremonya, hindi lang utang na loob na salita but let's back it up with procuring the vaccines that they need to stay alive and healthy and serving us beyond the call of duty. Saka huli na nga yung mga benepisyo nila under the law including laws that we've passed recently, huwag na rin maman nating ihuli pa, bilisan natin. Let's get those vaccines here on time which was yesterday para protektahan ang ating mga healthcare workers na nagpoprotekta sa atin.

Q: And that's what we need to talk about, the Vaccination Bill that was passed by Congress, awaiting the signature of the President and of course this pastillas scam, sabi ni Senator Hontiveros, may bagong mutation itong pastillas scam.

Q: A bit of good news when we're talking about the COVAX facility. Ang sabi ng WHO representative here in the Philippines yung pong scheduled delivery ng Astrazeneca could be finalized this week. Wala parin po tayong update about the Pfizer vaccine as much as we've already sent the indemnification agreement. Parang naghihintay pa ata ng sagot dun sa ating indemnification agreement with them. All this, was, again, supposed to arrive, the indicative date was mid-February but obviously this did not happen. Parang in a nutshell siguro senator, what do you think happened? Because subsequently while this is happening nagmadali ang Congress, Senate, and the House to pass this vaccination bill, which includes what? Two things: the procurement of vaccines and an indemnity fund.


I really commend the Senate leadership, our sponsor Senator Sonny, and our counterparts in the House, for taking this urgent action on a Vaccine Bill, or a Vaccine Law soon to be, hopefully. In the Senate, we only had wished that the DOH had told us earlier na kailangan pala yang indemnification provision na iyon dahil kung sinabi nila agad nung palang Committee of the Whole hearing, edi sana mas maaga pa namin trinabaho ito as we did just within the space of less than 2 weeks at masaya po ako na tinanggap ng House yung Senate version. I also laud yung ating mga local government units at yung private sector for stepping up earlier, taking the lead in what is now finally, hopefully with the signature of the Executive dahil tinrabaho namin sa Kongreso, truly a more whole of government, and whole-of-nation approach.

Of course, nakakainip na yung Pfizer at Astra Zeneca na una pa ngang nakatanggap ng EUA mula sa FDA ay nahuhuli sa pagprocure, nauna pa yung donation ng Sinovac na pangatlo, humabol na EUA. I don't know some people are saying, "Did somebody drop the ball again?", "Minsan nauuna yung karetela sa kabayo". But let's get things in order those vaccines are early on received EUA's belatedly now Congress was informed and we stepped up and delivered an indemnification provision in this vaccine law, no more excuses, no more delays please on the part of the Executive as led by the IATF to get all the vaccine platforms that they said they've been negotiating for many months now. Hello, it's already year 2 of the pandemic, get these platforms in place and operating because we are falling behind in the time table that they set early on to begin rolling out the vaccination program and let's get the 'why DOH information program about the vaccination program online so that there's full information to the public. There will be that screening, there will be informed consent, and proper monitoring put in place as also provided by the bill passed by Congress.

Q: I need to shift topics, senator, but this is just something I wanted to clear up. Nakausap ko nga po si Senator Drilon kahapon and he said, I asked him, "Who dropped the ball?" And sabi niya it's Sec. Duque and Sec. Galvez. But I need to move on to this. He also said that even that law, that Congress passed, the Vaccination Bill, is not really necessary according to Senator Drilon. He was saying na kaya naman po, it's within the powers of the President to issue an Executive Order on this. Just very quickly: Why pass a law when, if Senator Drilon is right, that kaya naman ng Pangulo 'to na wala nang kailangang gawing batas ang Kongreso.

SRH: Totoo. Sinabi din ni Senate Minority Leader Senator Frank na the President has all the powers to bind the government, even in a vaccination program like this. I guess our still passing a law was a natural followup on the Senate Committee of the Whole hearings on a vaccination program. So here, in a way, we've gone even above and beyond what is required in terms of legislation so all the more we can tell the Executive, hey, no more, as I mentioned earlier, no more delays. No more excuses because the LGUs stepped up early. The private sector stepped up early. Here we are in Congress passing a law about something that in fact you could already do and you could have done in the past year, so speaking of who dropped the ball before, now, the ball is again solidly, finally in the court of the Executive.

Q: A new modus dito sa Pastillas scam, sabi nyo nga, it's mutating pasillas scam, this was already revealed, investigated at the Senate and then very recently, mayroon na naman, at panibago hindi na nga, ibang version nga ng pastillas scam. Ano ho ba ito, wala ho kayang kadala-dala ang mga pasimuno nito?

SRH: Parang ganyang nga. As a fruit of the Senate inquiries, NBI's and DOJ's own investigations, cases have started to be filed against BI officials and personnel even against one travel agency operator and manager, cases filed also in the Ombudsman, mukha ngang walang kadala-dala.

I think their business model is too profitable for them in the past several years already, at least since 2017, when former Justice Sec Aguirre issued that Department Order 41 creating the Visa Upon Arrival or the VUA, which is another scheme which a revenue stream for the one-stop shop of corruption at the BI. And the cases so far have been filed against low level or foot soldier, and some, but not all, mid-level bosses and masterminds who were identified in the Senate hearings, so far.

Mukhang there's really a protector who is operating, emboldening those who remain inside, and their cohorts for example in the travel agencies to now mutate the original pastillas, into something even much more profitable for them, 50x over apparently, P10,000 before per person, and now reportedly, P550,000. Parang dollars na di ba. Probably, they're emboldened because the roots haven't really been deeply pulled out, uprooted to put an end to this corruption in one of our importante government agencies. Important not only to protect our borders, but to protect our women and children against the crimes they've been suffering from the Chinese POGO workers and undesirable aliens among those Chinese using the VUA to come into the country and operate their criminal syndicates.

Q: Will this prompt the Senate to look into this new Pastillas scam?

SRH: The Senate Committee on Women was prepared to do our last hearing on the year-long now POGO-related prostitution resolution. We were going to close with a final look into not just the inbound human trafficking and the so-called Chinese-only related prostitution here inside the Philippines, pero tingnan din yung sinasabing baka yung sindikato ay the one behind also outbound trafficking of Filipinas bound for prostituition abroad. Now we have to do a back-to-back of closing topics in our hearing, kasi ito nga nakita naming mutation, parang may lumot na pastillas, pero bagong flavor, mapait na pastillas scam dito sa BI. Wala talagang kadala-dala, matigas talaga ang ulo, palagay ko masyadong matapang ang apog.

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