Roque: Duterte sees no major lapse from Duque on Pfizer deal controversy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 17) — Amid allegations Health Secretary Francisco Duque "dropped the ball" in the country's vaccine deal with US drugmaker Pfizer, Malacañang says President Rodrigo Duterte does not see any huge mistake on the official's end, but has advised him to address the issue once and for all.

"I think, from the overall demeanor of the President, wala naman po siyang nakikitang major lapse dahil ang pinag-uusapan po ay kontrata at hindi naman po abogado si Secretary Duque," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque during his regular briefing.

[Translation: I think, from the overall demeanor of the President, he doesn't see any major lapse because the thing in question here is a contract and Secretary Duque is not a lawyer to begin with.]

In a tweet earlier this week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he and Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez were able to secure 10 million doses for the country from Pfizer. The vaccines were set to arrive in the Philippines by January next year, but arrangements fell apart because "someone dropped the ball."

Senator Panfilo Lacson later said the person in question was Duque, citing his "indifference" as he supposedly "failed to work on necessary documentary requirements."

While the arrival of the Pfizer vaccines will be pushed back, Romualdez assured the public that talks on the country's supply are in progress.

"Hindi po namin alam kung ano talaga yung pinag-usapan ni Secretary Locsin, Ambassador Romualdez at ni [United States] Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo," explained Roque, who also bared the President's advice to the Health chief on issues hounding him related to the Pfizer vaccine deal.

[Translation: We don't really know what exactly are the contents of Secretary Locsin, Ambassador Romualdez, and Secretary Pompeo's discussions (on the vaccine deal).]

"I think the President was clear: there's a controversy, there's an allegation, he should answer. And we'll take it from there," he said.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently the only one to secure emergency use authorization overseas, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Singapore.

The government hopes to begin vaccinating Filipinos against COVID-19 beginning the first quarter of 2021.