Aquino to appear before Comelec over Dengvaxia issue
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - March 15, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Former president Benigno Aquino III will appear before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) today to answer a complaint filed against him and his officials for launching the dengue immunization program weeks before the 2016 polls.

The hearing is set at 10 a.m.

The Comelec summoned Aquino, former budget secretary Florencio Abad and former health secretary Janette Garin to explain why they should not be charged for the program’s implementation ahead of the elections two years ago.

The former president has appeared before the Senate and the House of Representatives to clear the circumstances behind the approval of the vaccination program using Dengvaxia supplied by the French firm Sanofi Pasteur.

Aquino has denied any irregularity in the purchase of the vaccines and the implementation of the anti-dengue program, saying all processes to verify the efficacy and safety of Dengvaxia were followed and that he wanted to save people’s lives from the deadly disease.

Early this month, Garin vowed to attend the Comelec hearing as she insisted that the dengue immunization program during her watch was not a political exercise.

“It will allow me to show that the immunization program was not at all part of a political exercise as others are trying to make it appear, but was already part of (the Department of Health’s) program to find a solution to a real health concern at that time which was dengue,” Garin said in a statement.

The hearing stemmed from the complaint filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption which accused Aquino and Garin of violating Section 261 (o) of the Omnibus Election Code.

The provision prohibits the release and use of public funds within 45 days before a regular election or 30 days before a special election. The complaint is based on the time of the release of funds for the purchase of P3.5 billion worth of Dengvaxia vaccines.

In her statement, Garin maintained that the program was a response to the World Health Organization naming the Philippines number one in the Western Pacific Region in terms of dengue cases, as more than 200,000 dengue cases were recorded from 2013 to 2015.

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