Aquino, Abad, Garin and former executive secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. appeared at the Senate hearing on the same issue last December and explained there was no irregularity in the implementation of the anti-dengue vaccination program as all processes were followed. Philstar.com/File Photo

Aquino, Abad to attend House probe on dengue vaccine
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - February 26, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Former president Benigno Aquino III and his budget secretary Florencio Abad will attend today’s House hearing on the Dengvaxia vaccine controversy as resource persons.

Aquino’s health secretary Janette Garin has also been called to attend the hearing, along with several incumbent officials of the Duterte administration.

Aquino, Abad, Garin and former executive secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. appeared at the Senate hearing on the same issue last December and explained there was no irregularity in the implementation of the anti-dengue vaccination program as all processes were followed.

The former president has expressed readiness to answer all questions about the vaccine procurement at the proper forum as he stressed earlier that the program was meant to protect the people from the deadly disease.

Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chairman of the House committee on good government and public accountability, said they also invited representatives of Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur and its distributor Zuellig Pharma.

Pimentel’s panel, along with the committee on health of Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan, will resume its joint hearings today regarding the implications of the withdrawal of anti-dengue vaccines.

Among the incumbent officials expected to appear are Secretaries Benjamin Diokno of the Department of Budget and Management, Francisco Duque III (health), Leonor Briones (education), officer-in-charge Eduardo Año (interior and local government), Vitaliano Aguirre II (justice) and Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta.

Officials from various divisions, bureaus and services of the Department of Health, Philippine General Hospital, University of the Philippines College of Medicine and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, among others, were also invited to the hearing.

Pimentel said he is counting on Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza to question Aquino and Abad on the previous administration’s purchase of the vaccines in January 2016.

“To be fair, we may also ask all health officials and experts at the hearing to voluntarily disclose any potential conflicts of interest they may have in this case,” Pimentel, a pro-administration lawmaker, said.

“We may probe them if they or any of their family members have or have had any dealings or connections, now or in the past, with either Sanofi SA or Zuellig, or both,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel earlier said the mere perception of a likely conflict of interest may be enough to pollute the remarks of a medical practitioner, regardless of his or her qualifications, testifying on Dengvaxia.

It was previously discovered that former health secretary Esperanza Cabral, who has publicly spoken and written about the Dengvaxia case, serves on the board of trustees of the Zuellig Family Foundation.

The Dengvaxia vaccines became controversial after Sanofi admitted it could cause serious ailments to those who never had dengue but were inoculated.

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