FORMER President Benigno Aquino 3rd demonstrated how much of a shameless, sociopathic liar he is at the hearings of three Congress committees on the Dengvaxia debacle.
He claimed that he undertook the mass vaccination using the defective Dengvaxia vaccine since 1 million Filipinos get sick of dengue annually, and boasted that he “cannot allow this to happen.”
That is a total lie. Health department figures show that in the past 10 years the incidence of dengue has never exceeded 200,000 annually, with 131,827 cases in 2017. Dengue is not among the top 10 prevalent diseases in the country or among the top 10 causes of deaths in most years.
The most prevalent diseases in the country are those affecting the lungs. About 2 million Filipinos get sick of respiratory infection, pneumonia, and bronchitis; 345,000 of hypertension, 326,551 of diarrhea, and 272,000 of influenza.
Deaths due to dengue has averaged less than a thousand per year (731 in 2017) in contrast to the 140,000 deaths due to heart and vascular diseases, 36,000 to pneumonia, 25,000 to tuberculosis, and 20,000 to diabetes.
Why would Aquino lie about the incidence of dengue, to exaggerate it?
In order to justify why he and Janette Garin—a politician who became Aquino’s health secretary in his last year in office—chose dengue as the disease to focus on, and to allocate P3.5 billion for it, even violating budget laws in his last year in office. In fact, never has there been a program of such cost for a single year targeted to alleviate a particular disease.
And why did they do this? The only rational answer is this: None of the country’s most prevalent diseases and causes of mortality involved a new drug or vaccine offered solely by a single firm, as the French company Sanofi did in the case of its Dengvaxia, so far the only such vaccine claimed to prevent dengue.
Sanofi spent $1.5 billion
No prevalent disease in the country has ever involved a single, huge firm such as Sanofi – alleged to have been involved in cases of bribery in other countries – that was getting desperate to sell its Dengvaxia quickly to recover the $1.5 billion it had spent in developing the vaccine.
It had expected to sell $200 million worth of Dengvaxia since 2015. It has reported only $63.6 million sales of Dengvaxia so far.
The confirmed P3 billion the Aquino government paid for the 1 million doses it bought was worth $58 million, or 92 percent of Sanofi’s Dengvaxia sales.
Yet the incompetent congressmen who undertook the hearings on the issue the other day still did not suspect that Aquino and his cabal earned a single corrupt dollar out of this deal? None of them interrogated Aquino on this.
Sanofi was also racing against time as other entities, including Japan’s biggest pharmaceutical firm Takeda Pharmaceuticals and the mammoth Merck & Co., were reportedly in the last stages of trials for their own anti-dengue vaccines. Even US military institutions, the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and the Naval Medical Research Center, were rushing to develop a vaccine against dengue in order to protect their soldiers in future wars in the jungles of the Third World. Aquino was manna from heaven for Sanofi.
Aquino again showed how much of an inveterate liar he is, or alternatively such an extremely criminally negligent president, when he claimed that he would have stopped the Dengvaxia program if he had known about its downside, which he said was revealed by Sanofi only in November 2017.
Aquino ordered a mass vaccination program that would inject live (albeit purportedly weakened) dengue viruses into 1 million children – the new Dengvaxia vaccine – and he relied solely on the seller Sanofi’s assurances that it was safe, and didn’t consult any third party on its safety?
Aquino in fact ordered the purchase of Dengvaxia months before the Food and Drug Administration approved it in a span of a month – during holiday-filled December – and after the Philippine Pharmaceutical Council was pressured to okay it for government purchase.
Aquino lied that only Sanofi could check on Dengvaxia’s safety and efficacy, and that its defects were disclosed only in November 2017.
The World Health Organization in 2015, months before the December purchase order for Dengvaxia was issued, announced in its website that its group of experts would issue its evaluation of the vaccine’s effectivity and risks only the next year, in May 2016.
Aquino ignored the WHO position, and had the health department undertake the vaccination program in April 2016. In a Senate hearing two months ago, he claimed that if he had not ordered the Dengvaxia, it would have taken at least a year for a new administration to undertake the vaccination program, or it might even decide not to.
What a liar. The real reason is most probably that he saw it as a huge financial opportunity he would miss if he didn’t act swiftly before his term ended, never mind if he risked the health of a million children.
Unfortunately, the members of the House of Representative’s three committees that undertook the investigation mostly demonstrated how incompetent they are in ferreting out the truth in this controversy, or were so awed by the former president they let him run circles around them. The communist-party representative Isagani Zarate proved that that he can only argue in slogans.
I understand President Duterte’s distancing himself from the controversy since as he put it, “it is not his style” to go after a now largely powerless predecessor, as Aquino had done with such ruthlessness against former President Arroyo.
I hope though that he gets around to realizing that this is the worst case of corruption in our nation ever, since for money they put at risk the life and health of more than 800,000 children, injected with a defective medicine that would make them contract a severe, potentially fatal case of dengue if they had never contracted it before. Have you heard of such a similar contemptible case of corruption ever, anywhere in the world?
It is Duterte’s sworn duty to first to uphold justice, and second to prosecute the guilty in this case in order to set a precedent that would end corruption in this country.
Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao