AFP chief admits getting Chinese envoy’s help to get COVID-19 meds, but says he aborted plea soon after
MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces chief Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. sought the assistance of the Chinese ambassador in Manila to procure an experimental drug that supposedly treats the symptoms of COVID-19, only to cancel his request after learning that the medication has not yet been officially approved for use of coronavirus patients.
Santos on Tuesday confirmed that he had written a letter to Chinese ambassador Huang Xilian. The letter was first posted by ABS CBN News on its social media platforms.
The AFP chief, who previously tested positive for coronavirus, said he had taken the Chinese tablets himself with the clearance of his doctors.
Santos told INQUIRER.net that he sent the letter on Friday (April 24) and then recalled it on Sunday (April 26), when he found out that it was not yet approved by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration. Asked if the withdrawal of his request was already received and acknowledged by the embassy, he said the letter was still with the embassy’s defense attaché.
In the undated letter coursed through the Chinese embassy’s defense and armed forces attaché, the AFP chief requested the “assistance in the procurement of 5 boxes of Carrimycin tablets which is available only in China.”
“I believe that the said medicine helped in my recovery from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection and I intend to give the said drug to my close friends who have also been infected,” Santos wrote to the ambassador.
The AFP chief was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 27 and placed himself on strict home quarantine for 14 days until April 14. He said he did not have any symptoms then.
But with clearance from his medical doctors, Santos said he took the tablets — given to him by a Chinese friend — twice a day for six days after he tested positive for the virus. On April 5, the AFP chief tested negative following the test conducted by the Department of Health and Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.
The letter has drawn flak on social media since Monday night. Santos’ letter, which he claimed to have been sent in a personal capacity, carried the letterhead of his office.
Santos, however, claimed his intent had nothing to do with the ongoing dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea.
“I just really want to help others, hirap tumagal sa isolation… Malayo naman po siguro sa issue ng West Philippine Sea. Focus is on the pandemic,” Santos told INQUIRER.net.
The Philippines has conflicting maritime claims with China in the West Philippine Sea, where the eastern giant had transformed reefs and islands into military outposts to assert ownership of the disputed waters.
Beijing’s based its claims on its mythical nine-dash line which had been rejected in 2016 by an international court in a case filed by the Philippines. Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims in the area.
There have been several well-publicized reports of China’s coercive actions against Philippine fishermen, coast guard and navy over the years.
Just last week, the Philippine government belatedly reported that a Chinese warship aimed its weapons on a Philippine Navy ship near Rizal (Commodore) Reef in February.
The incident prompted the Department of Foreign Affairs to file two diplomatic protests against China’s aggression in the WPS, accusing China of violating international law and Philippine sovereignty.
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