THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) Law Department has summoned former President Benigno Aquino 3rd and two former Cabinet secretaries to an investigation into an alleged election offense involving the purchase of the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
The Comelec issued a subpoena against former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and former Health Secretary Janet Garin for them to appear in a preliminary hearing on March 15.
During the hearing, the respondents will be required to submit a counter-affidavit against the complaint filed against them by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).
The three were accused of committing election offenses, when they implemented the dengue immunization program on April 4, 2016, which fell within the 45-day election ban on government projects ahead of the May 2016 election.
The Dengvaxia shots were given to more than 830,000 school children before the mass immunization program was suspended in November last year after manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur’s admission that it might increase the risk of dengue to patients who did not have a previous history of the dengue virus.
Also named in the complaint were several Department of Health officials: Undersecretaries Carol Tanio, Gerardo Bayugo, Lilibeth David, Mario Villaverde; Assistant Secretaries Lyndon Lee Suy and Nestor Santiago; Directors Laureano Cruz, Joyce Ducusin, Julius Lecciones, Mar Wynn Bello; Directors IV Leonila Gorgolon, Rio Magpantay, Ariel Valencia; and ex-undersecretaries Nemesio Gako, Vicente Belizario Jr, Kenneth Hartigan-Go and Dr Yolanda Oliveros.
An election offense carries a penalty of imprisonment from one to six years, removal of the right to vote, and disqualification from holding public office.