By Jun Ledesma

Herd immunity, Pharmally, and Blue Ribbon Committee

December 15, 2021, 1:03 pm

AS I write this piece the Covid -19 new cases in the Philippines is down to less than 500. This week too an unprecedented 24-million doses of various vaccines arrived in the country thus ensuring a substantial supply of vaccines from now all the way to the first quarter of 2022.  About 55% of the total population have been fully vaccinated and we are 15% shy of the herd immunity target of 70%.

Nevertheless, we have seen a stark difference in many situations compared to what we had been mired two months ago and beyond. Our emergency and isolation rooms in government hospitals intended for Covid cases are mostly empty. 

Indeed, we have gone a long way from when we were practically scrounging for Personal Protection Equipment for our doctors, nurses, and front liners. That was true with vaccines too. We faulted Health Sec. Francisco Duque who was the weakest link in our struggle for survival but that is another issue that remains unchanged. At the height of emergency and chaos, the government has to compete with other countries in scavenging for PPEs and vaccines.  We were in a situation best described by a Filipino adage: “Ang taong nagigipit, kahit sa patalim kumakapit”.  

Enter Pharmally. The supplies of PPEs at the height of the crippling emergencies came from Pharmally. We only learned of this when the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee (BRC) conducted an investigation into the alleged overprice of PPEs. To the chagrin of BRC Chairman Dick Gordon, the price of Pharmally was nearly half the purchase price of the Aquino government from their source. They then harped on the relationship of Duterte with a Michael Yang and why was a company Pharmally Pharmaceuticals, Gordon alleged to have a measly capitalization of ₱625,000, was awarded an ₱8-billion peso supply contract. Be that as it may the  Commission on Audit categorically said, there was no overpricing and that the goods were delivered. There were minor issues about face shields that had to be replaced but matters like those are commonplace. But the inquisition did not end there. Because Gordon, like the other members of the BRC are up for elections ergo the investigation lasted up to infinity. 

All these are after the fact. It is a question of leadership and decisiveness. The fact is, at the height and the first surge of the pandemic when every country worldwide was shopping for PPEs Pharmally through Michael Yang supplied the Philippines. And here lies the difference between a leader and a bystander cum fault-finder. If Dick Gordon were President at the height of emergency what he will do first is to go to the USA  and find none will shop in Europe. Never in China. By the time he will find one in the garbage bin in an American hospital, our doctors and nurses are down and people will be dying in the streets. Look Gordon even refused swab tests Filipinos who go to the Philippine National Red Cross simply because the government owes PNRC money forgetting that through the years it gets subsidies from the government. 

The Duterte government did what must be done. He did the same thing when the government procured arms for the Armed Forces of the Philippines which was fighting armed communist insurgents and  ISIS terrorists in Marawi. He was denied by the US so he purchased arms from Russia and China…..at a bargain. 

When the country cannot buy vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna of the US and Astra Zeneca of the UK,  the Duterte government received millions of doses from China and thousands from Russia. And these were mostly donations. To date, China remains to be the country’s biggest supplier of vaccines most of these are gratis et amore

Call that product of strong leadership in action and art of diplomacy 'condimented' with bilateral talks. 

To date, western propagandists have not ceased assailing the effectiveness of Sinovac vaccines despite the assurance of the World Health Organization. Only one fact remains, China today, despite its population of 1.3-billion people, has the least occurrences of Covid cases compared to western nations that are still in virtual lockdowns. 

What of Dick Gordon and his Yellow…rather Blue Ribbon Committee? He sent to jail two Malaysian nationals for driving expensive cars and non-payment of taxes. 

This is all about Herd immunity, Pharmally, and the Blue Ribbon Committee. If I have money I will produce a sequel of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. 


About the Columnist

Image of Jun Ledesma

Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.