A source in the NBI told The STAR that the charges were filed at past 4 p.m. on Friday at the Office of the Ombudsman.
Edd Gumban/File
NBI files case vs Aquino, others over Dengvaxia purchase
Rey Galupo (The Philippine Star) - July 17, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Graft charges have been filed against former president Benigno Aquino III and several former and current Cabinet officials in connection with the Dengvaxia controversy, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) confirmed yesterday.

A source in the NBI told The STAR that the charges were filed at past 4 p.m. on Friday at the Office of the Ombudsman.

Aside from Aquino, named respondents in the case were former Cabinet secretaries Janette Garin and Florencio Abad of the health and budget departments, respectively, and 19 current and former health officials found liable in the allegedly anomalous purchase of the vaccine.

“We submitted a one-inch thick document and the ball is now in the court of the ombudsman. The filing of charges was in line with the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s findings following the creation of a panel of prosecutors tasked to investigate the case,” the source said.

The NBI insider said they would conduct a press briefing today to announce the filing of the case.

“At the moment, we defer from coming out with an announcement because we have yet to clear it with higher authorities,” the source said.

He said the charge sheet included the executives of Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur and vaccine distributor Zuellig Pharma.

Last year, the DOJ created a panel headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rossane Balauag to handle the complaints against Aquino and his co-respondents.

The panel was prompted by a complaint filed by Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc. (VPCI), which charged the respondents of technical malversation, violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Government Procurement Act, multiple homicide and physical injuries through negligence.

New case

Meanwhile, another criminal case was filed yesterday against Garin and 36 other respondents in connection with the Dengvaxia controversy.

The complaint was filed by the the family of 11-year-old Michael Tablate of Subic, who died in October after receiving the anti-dengue vaccine.

The respondents were charged with reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and violation of the Anti-Torture Act and Consumer Act.

Tablate’s mother Rowena Villegas sought the assistance of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), which was tasked by the DOJ to investigate and build a case on the Dengvaxia controversy.

It was the 11th criminal complaint filed against Garin and the respondents.

The PAO has documented 67 cases of death allegedly due to the vaccine.

Just like in previous cases, the latest complaint accused Garin and others of negligence for failing to inform the children and their parents of the dangers of Dengvaxia.

It said the health agency under Garin failed to properly screen and monitor the children as the vaccine posed a risk to those who have not yet contracted dengue.

Villegas said her son was vaccinated thrice — in March and November 2016 and in July 2017.

“Around a week after receiving his last shot of Dengvaxia, Michael suffered from dizziness, headache and vomiting causing him to miss school. He also started having asthma attacks,” Villegas said in the complaint.

Dengvaxia mobile apps

The government will use two mobile applications to help monitor the status of children who were given the Dengvaxia shots.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones and Health Secretary Francisco Duque yesterday signed a memorandum of agreement with technology partners that developed the Abizo and Kaizala apps.

The applications will enable the DOH and the Department of Education (DepEd) to send notices and monitor the status of the Dengvaxia children.

Developed by Galileo Software Service, the Abizo app will help parents and guardians send regular reports of the symptoms and general health condition of the children to the monitoring agencies.

It will also serve as a platform for parents to receive advisories and surveys directly from DepEd and DOH.

Meanwhile, the Kaizala app developed by Indra and Microsoft will introduce the RSVP or the Register, Serve, Validate and Plan system to enable parents and guardians to communicate with concerned government agencies.

It will also allow officials to run surveys and collect the health status of the children as well as create public and private groups that will manage information sharing and work execution.

Education Undersecretary Alain del Pascua said the mobile applications is an alternative way to monitor the children.- With Edu Punay, Janvic Mateo

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