Armed Forces chief General Filemon Santos’s decision to ask for assistance from a Chinese envoy to procure medicine for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was a practical move, Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said Wednesday.
“Nothing is wrong. In times of crisis we have to be practical,” Dela Rosa said in a text message.
The senator emphasized that there is no known cure yet for the global pandemic.
“If I were in his shoes as a COVID-19 patient, I would even reach out to a quack doctor just to stay alive,” he added.
On Tuesday, the AFP confirmed that the letter containing the request of Santos for assistance in the purchase of five boxes of Carrimycin tablets in China was authentic.
In the letter, Santos, a COVID-19 survivor, said he wants to give the medicine to some of his friends who got infected. Santos reportedly took Carrimycin as advised by his physician when he was battling the contagious disease.
The letter was addressed to Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian.
The AFP, however, clarified that the request was withdrawn immediately after Santos learned that the said medicine is not registered with the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for his part said the request of the AFP chief should have been coursed through the proper national government agency.
“Hindi naman siguro improper ‘yung ginawa niya. Wala lang sa lugar. Dahil dapat ‘yung mga ganoong sulat ay idadaan muna sa Department of Foreign Affairs,” Lorenzana said.
Meanwhile, Senate committee on defense chairperson Panfilo Lacson said AFP’s decision to recall the request “is an admission that something is wrong with it.”
For her part, Senator Leila de Lima also said the AFP chief’s request was “wrong on so many levels.”
“First of all, solicitation of personal favors by public officials is a violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. Second, dispensation of medicine by a non-licensed individual is illegal practice of medicine in violation of the Medical Act. Even doctors who prescribe non-FDA approved medicines are in danger of losing their license,” De Lima said in a statement.
De Lima underscored that the AFP chief is mandated to protect the national interest and therefore should not be beholden to foreign officials.
“For him to owe a debt of gratitude to any foreign entity is a conflict of interest at best and treason at worst. Kailangan natin ng armed forces chief na hindi nabibili ng sinuman, lalo na ng mga dayuhan,” she added.
According to the FDA, Carrimycin is not part of the solidarity trial of drugs COVID-19 in which the Philippines is a participant of. — RSJ, GMA News