Former President Benigno Aquino III and former Health Secretary Janette Garin are facing criminal complaints in connection with the Dengvaxia mess.
The STAR/Edd Gumban
Aquino denies liability over Dengvaxia mess
( - June 4, 2018 - 12:41pm

MANILA, Philippines — Former President Benigno Aquino III on Monday denied his liability over the graft and technical malversation complaint filed by two anti-crime groups on the controversial inoculation of anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

Aquino, former Health Secretary Janette Garin and former budget chief Florencio Abad attended Monday’s preliminary investigation hearing into the raps filed by the Volunteer against Crime and Corruption and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution.

The three are facing raps for their alleged violation of Section 3 of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act); Section 65 of RA 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act); Article 220 (Technical Malversation) of the Revised Penal Code; Article 365 (Criminal Negligence) of the Revised Penal Code; and four other violations of the law.

READ: DOJ orders Aquino, others to answer Dengvaxia raps

Aquino subscribed to his counter-affidavit before the panel of state prosecutors, headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rossane Balauag. The former president, in his defense, raised that “to date, there has been no categorical finding by medical experts that the dengue vaccine has directly caused the deaths of vaccinated children.”

“At the time of the funding approval, there was no evidence adduced by the experts that the vaccine was not safe and effective,” he added.

Aquino also insisted that the Dengvaxia program underwent proper procurement process.

“There has not been any definitive finding by any court, tribunal or fact-finding body as to whether the deaths suffered were directly attributable to the vaccine,” he added.

The complainants accused Aquino and the other respondents of criminal negligence, alleging that the correlation between deaths of students and the vaccine has been established.

They said the respondents should be liable under these laws after they “anomalously and illegally funded and procured the Dengvaxia vaccine and ill-advisedly, thoughtlessly and imprudently implemented the dengue immunization” project of the Department of Health.  

Forum shopping?

Aquino also hit the multiple filing of cases against them on three agencies.

The former president noted that, other than the Department of Justice, complaints against them were filed also before the Commission on Elections and the Office of the Ombudsman.

“Gumugulo yung usapan (The discussion is getting messy),” he said.

In a press conference after the hearing, Aquino said in a mix of Filipino and English: “Due to sensationalizing, many are reaching wrong decisions that put the safety of our countrymen in danger.”

He said that he has read reports that there are parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated and take deworming medicine.

He stressed: “To this day, there has yet to be proof that Dengvaxia is fatal.”

The next hearing is set on June 22, when VACC and VPCI will submit their comments on the respondents’ counter-affidavit.

Malacañang, on May 8, said it would create a three-man panel of experts to look into the probable cause of deaths allegedly linked to the controversial Dengvaxia. The panel would conduct a separate review from ones led by the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital and the Public Attorney’s Office.

READ: Duterte to create panel to review Dengvaxia-linked deaths

The expert physicians of PGH found that three of the 14 children who died after being vaccinated with Dengvaxia contracted dengue. It noted that two of these children might have died because of vaccine failure but cautioned that more tests should still be done.

PAO’s findings, presented before the Senate blue ribbon committee, showed a link between the deaths of 22 children they autopsied and the dengue vaccine.

More than 830,000 people have been vaccinated with Dengvaxia since it was launched during the term of Garin.

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