FORMER President Benigno Aquino 3rd maintained on Thursday that he committed no election offenses when his administration implemented a massive vaccination program to fight dengue by using Dengvaxia.
Aquino showed up at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday to attend a closed-door hearing of the complaint filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC). Francis Cruz and Clarito Cairo Jr. for alleged violation of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC).
The complainants alleged that Aquino and his co-accused, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, former health secretary Janet Garin, and 13 incumbent officials of the Department of Health (DoH) violated, among others, Section 261 of Batas Pambansa Blg.881 or the Omnibus Election Code, which prohibits the release of public funds 45 days before the holding of an election.
Aquino said the immunization program, which cost the government P3.5 billion, underwent the legal process. He added that it was implemented to arrest the soaring cases of dengue.
He said the complaint filed against him would be junked because it was baseless.
“Wala po akong ginawang mali (I did nothing wrong),” Aquino said, adding that the case was filed to harass him.
The former president explained that he approved the use of government savings on December 29, 2015 to purchase the vaccine, which, he pointed out, was beyond the 45-day Comelec ban. The purchase order was made on March 9, 2016, which was also 16 days from the start of the ban on disbursement of public funds.
“So if you look at the available records when the fund was disbursed, when it was authorized, they were all before the start of the election ban or election period,” Aquino said.
Though it was confirmed that the clinical test on Dengvaxia has not yet been completed, Aquino claimed that the controversial anti-dengue vaccine has passed all the required tests and studies not only in the Philippines but elsewhere in the world.
“There was a tool, it passed through all the tests necessary and we used that tool to address the situation of dengue,” he said, adding “the job of protecting the people’s health cannot be held in abeyance by elections.”
More than 800,000 school children and police personnel were inoculated with Dengvaxia under the massive vaccination program. Some of the children who were injected with the vaccine died, and these cases are being investigated by the VACC and the Public Attorney’s Office.
The VACC alleged that Aquino, Abad and Garin were behind the school-based immunization program.
“In the case of other DoH officials, they are liable for being involved, directly or indirectly, in the first round of implementation of the Dengue Immunization Program on April 4, 2016 or during the election ban,” the group said.