Senate Minority Leader on Thursday defended former President Aquino against accusations that he and his officials were liable for the controversy surrounding the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
The STAR/Michael Varcas, File
Drilon defends Aquino, others in dissent to Gordon Dengvaxia report
Audrey Morallo ( - April 19, 2018 - 5:36pm

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Thursday dissented from the findings of the draft committee report prepared by Sen. Richard Gordon holding former President Benigno Aquino III and some of his Cabinet officials liable for the controversy surrounding an anti-dengue immunization program begun during his administration.

In his 31-page dissent, Drilon said that the Senate blue ribbon committee, Finance committee and Health and Demography committee did not find scientific evidence to support the conclusion that any of the reported deaths were connected to Dengvaxia, the anti-dengue shot developed by the French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur.

He said that if Dengvaxia is found to be “the proximate cause” — also known as direct cause — of the reported deaths, everybody, including officials of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, should be held accountable.

READ: Lacson comes to Aquino's defense: Former leader incapable of graft

He said that 280,000 children were vaccinated during the time of Aquino and his Health secretary, Jannette Garin, while more than 400,000 were inoculated under Duterte and his first Health chief, Pauline Ubial.

“Declaring certain personalities guilty at this point would not only be premature but would also reinforce impressions of the politicization of a legitimate public health concern that must addressed in a clinical manner,” Drilon said in his dissent letter to Gordon, the chairman of the blue ribbon committee, a more common name for the Senate Committee on the Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations.

In his draft report released last week, Gordon said that Aquino, Garin, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Philippine Children’s Medical Center executive director Julius Lecciones were liable for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Gordon said that these officials must be prosecuted for imperiling the lives of thousands of children by giving them an anti-dengue shot which later turned out be dangerous for those who had not previously contracted the infection.

The committee chairman also accused Aquino and Garin of conspiring to facilitate the procurement of the anti-dengue vaccine during an election year.

Drilon, who is a member of the Liberal Party just like Aquino, warned his colleagues against selecting evidence that would fit their conclusion while hiding or ignoring proof that would refute it.

READ: Gatchalian: Aquino not criminally liable for Dengvaxia mess

'No malice in Dengvaxia approval'

The Senate minority leader said that there was no intentional felony committed in the planning and implementation of the program as Aquino did not act with malice in acquiring the vaccine.

He said that the former leader relied only on the advice of then Health Secretary Enrique Ona and could not have known of the possible adverse effects of the shots on people with no history of the infection.

“Considering that there is no conclusive proof to establish that Dengvaxia was the proximate cause of the deaths of the children whose bodies were autopsied by the PAO, it is evident that the second element of Article 4 of the Revised Penal Code is not met,” Drilon said.

'Dengvaxia beneficial to more people'

Drilon also defended Aquino against Gordon’s accusation that the former president committed “malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance,” saying that his report did not specify the acts that showed these.

He said that Aquino, Garin, Abad and Lecciones could not be held accountable for entering into a contract manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government as Dengvaxia was offered by only one company and was shown to be beneficial to more people.

Aquino could not also be accused of technical malversation as the use of savings to procure the anti-dengue vaccine was allowed by law, according to Drilon, a former justice secretary.

The former president also exercised proper diligence in approving the vaccine, according to Drilon, as he made policy decisions based on the best available data when he made the judgment.

There was also no haste in acquiring the vaccine as the dengue problem was already on the rise and discussed as early as 2010, or five years before the purchase of Dengvaxia, Drilon said.

READ: ‘Ubial as liable as Garin in Dengvaxia case’

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