MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday questioned the demand of vaccine manufacturers for the national government to shoulder liability for adverse effects of Covid-19 vaccines procured by the private sector.
Duterte, a lawyer and former prosecutor, said he found “holes” under the indemnity clause in vaccine procurement contracts that require government to assume liability for private sector-procured vaccines.
“The government cannot guarantee much less give you an immune status na (that) you are freed of any and all liability. I think we cannot even do that even if we wanted to yung assumption of liability,” he said in a pre-recorded public address.
He said his reason for raising reservations is because the government would be prevented from going after vaccine manufacturers.
“In the first place hindi atin ‘yan, ngayon kung nagka letse letse ‘yan (it’s not ours so if there are problems like) mishandling or for whatever reason it is not as effective as advertised then they will go after against whom? Ang gusto ng mga manufacturers na ang private sector magbili, ang gobyerno mag assume ng liaibility. Hindi ho puwede yung ganun. May malaking butas diyan actually (Manufacturers want the private sector to buy them and government to assume liability. That cannot be the case. There’s a huge hole there). Assumption of liability na ganun (like that),” he added.
Duterte said the indemnity clause in vaccine procurement contracts could even be “illegal”.
“We are not allowed to sign any agreement to that effect na nandiyan nakalatag lahat (with those conditions) they are the buyers of such and such tapos nandun yung payment tapos nandun yung indemnification na gobyerno magbayad (and the payment is there and the government assumes liability)? I do not think that it will be legal,” he said.
An act of Congress, he said, may be needed to resolve the questionable indemnity clause.
“Ang makagawa lang ‘yan is Congress, wala nang iba (Only the Congress can take action, no one else),” he said.
On February 26, Duterte signed into law the Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 that aims to fast-track the administration of Covid-19 vaccines and establish a PHP500-million indemnification fund for those who may show adverse side effects after getting the shot.
The fund will be sourced from the 2021 national budget’s Contingent Fund and administered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.
The law also allows local government units (LGUs) and the private sector to purchase Covid-19 vaccines. (PNA)