SENATOR Richard Gordon defended himself on Friday against allegations from fellow senators and netizens that he “monopolized” the hearing on the Dengavaxia vaccine scandal.
The inquiry on the alleged questionable P3.5 billion purchase of Dengavaxia vaccine resumed on Thursday and jointly conducted by the Blue Ribbon and Health Committees, headed by Gordon and Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito respectively.
Former president Benigno Aquino 3rd, former executive secretary Paquito Ochoa, former budget secretary Florencio Abad, and former health secretary Janet Garin attended the investigation to clarify their involvement in the procurement of the controversial vaccine, which turned out to have some “adverse effects” on first-time victims of dengue.
The former president’s fellow Liberal partymates were present during the public hearing. They were Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, and Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th. Senators Nancy Binay, Sherwin Gatchalian, Risa Hontiveros, and Joel Villanueva were also there. Binay and Villanueva reportedly “walked out.”
Gordon dismissed the complaints by some netizens who felt shortchanged because other senators were not given the chance to ask questions while treating some resource persons badly by cutting off their answers.
“I don’t think so. I don’t agree with that. (Sen.) Bam Aquino and the others they were all given the chance. I don’t think they can say that we didn’t give everybody the chance,” he said.
“There’s always something that I think some mischievous lie that starts to lay on me that I try to monopolize it. Well, you know if they can do a better job, I did not ask for the Blue Ribbon Committee, they can have it,” Gordon said in a phone patch interview.
Hontiveros said the Dengavaxia hearing could have been “handled and managed in a more participatory and democratic manner in which senators could have been given enough time to ask our questions.”
“After all, the Blue Ribbon Committee is a collegial body. Personally, I had a hard time asking questions because there was not enough latitude and flexibility. Despite that, I attended all the hearings, tried to be very patient and asserted my right to ask my own questions,” she said in a text message.
“I also thought it was improper to let a non-resource speaker speak before the hearing and let the individual cast aspersions against personalities and then ask the committee to look for evidence to support the unsubstantiated claims,” Hontiveros said.
She was referring to Ferdinand Topacio, a lawyer for the Violence Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), who was allowed by Gordon to deliver “a preliminary speech” in which he asked the Blue Ribbon Committee to file plunder charges against Aquino. BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO