‘Unprotected’ Garin grilled at Senate
MANILA, Philippines–In the end, they shook hands with and even bussed acting Health Secretary Janette Garin.
When Garin finally appeared on Monday to defend the proposed budget of the Department of Health (DOH), the senators did not question her “unprotected” visit to peacekeepers from Ebola-hit Liberia.
Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III raised a host of questions on the DOH budget, including the Gates Foundation’s alleged subsidy for the purchase of contraceptives, for at least three hours.
It was only toward the end of his interpellation that he made reference to the elephant in the room: The “unprotected” visit by Garin and the Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr., to Caballo Island where the peacekeepers are quarantined.
“Let us take this opportunity to air the side of others. They were showing their indignation at the cavalier attitude of our department officials. It seemed they were not careful and not very conscious of the prevention of Ebola. Nothing wrong with taking precautions,” Sotto said.
“To show proof that I am all right, and have no problem with the department, I will move there and shake the hands of the secretary,” he added.
Sotto walked toward Garin and they shook hands.
Earlier in the day, while seated in the gallery, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. went up to her, shook her hand and bussed her on the cheek. Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV gave her a high-five.
In jest, Sen. Francis Escudero on Wednesday broached the idea of Garin wearing protective gear when she shows up at the Senate, if only to teach her a lesson on following protocol.
Garin rejected this and said she would even lecture the senators on the Ebola virus. She ignored calls to undergo quarantine.
Garin and Catapang drew flak when they visited the 132 peacekeepers quarantined on Caballo Island without wearing the required suits, masks and gloves.
The peacekeepers and other Filipinos arriving from Ebola-hit countries are required to undergo a 21-day quarantine.
In his three-hour interpellation, Sotto, a prolife advocate, questioned the P1.025-billion budget for family planning methods, including subthermal implants, for 2.7 million beneficiaries.
Sotto said a subthermal implant contained a form of progestin, a hormone that prevents pregnancy.
As sponsor of the DOH budget, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said the substance “inhibits ovulation and increases cervical mucus secretion.”
“Therefore, preventing fertilization, preventing the meeting of the egg and sperm,” Guingona said.
Guingona said each subthermal implant cost P500.
“Why is the government buying it at P500 when the actual unit cost ranges from P5,000 to P10,000? The answer is, Mr. President, the Gates Foundation will subsidize P4,500 per unit. Why? Those pushing for contraception are those who have the intention to either control the population, or make money,” Sotto said.
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