‘Dengvaxia scam could put Aquino in jail’

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THE chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee on Sunday expressed confidence that majority of the senators would sign his report on the Dengvaxia controversy that could put former President Benigno Aquino 3rd and his cabinet officials in prison.

Sen. Richard Gordon said at least 10 senators have expressed an intention to sign the report that recommends the filing of cases against Aquino, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and former Health Secretary Janette Garin for the controversial procurement and use of the dengue vaccine.

Gordon, however, declined to name the senators. He only said those who informed the committee that they would sign the report were Senators Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Gregorio Honasan 2nd and Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto.

The Blue Ribbon committee chairman on Wednesday presented to the media a copy of the draft report that accused Aquino, Abad and Garin as primary conspirators. The report said the officials must be held criminally liable and prosecuted for the tragedy, damage, and possible deaths resulting from the use of Dengvaxia.


Sen. Risa Hontivero, an ally of Aquino, was not happy with the move taken by Gordon to have the copy of the unsigned committee report presented to the media and the public before copies were distributed to members of the committee.

Hontiveros said the move further strengthened suspicions that the Dengvaxia investigation had been politicized.

“I reserve my opinion on the accused individuals pending the release of the copies of the said report to the members of the committee,” she said.

Gordon said the former President must be held liable for his involvement in the Dengvaxia controversy that put the health of hundreds of thousands of children at risk.

“I don’t wish that he (Aquino) be put to jail, that is why the recommendation was not plunder. I do not want him in jail because it is a disgrace for the country to always have leaders who are being charged,” Gordon said in a radio interview.

But the senator maintained that Aquino and his officials violated the law.

“All of them could go to jail but the gravest sin for me is that he (Aquino) did not care for the young people, for the defenseless children,” Gordon added.

About 830,000 people, mostly school children, were inoculated with the vaccine. The government stopped the immunization program in December last year when Sanofi Pasteur, maker of Dengvaxia, warned that the vaccine might cause severe dengue in people who have not been exposed to the dengue virus.

“I believe in my heart and in my mind and my limited knowledge of the law that it (report) could stand court trial,” Gordon said.

Understandable
Sen. Panfilo Lacson earlier vouched for the integrity of the former President, saying it was hard to believe that Aquino was capable of committing graft and corruption, which was one of the cases recommended by the Blue Ribbon to be filed against him.

“Having worked closely with ex-PNoy both in the Senate and Malacañang, it is difficult for me to believe that he was capable of committing graft and corruption,” said Lacson, who served as the Yolanda rehabilitation czar during the previous administration.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th expressed doubts that Gordon could get enough senators to sign the report.

Trillanes said 90 percent of the hearings conducted by the committee on the Dengvaxia mess were spent on Gordon’s continuous talk. He added that even if Gordon managed to get enough senators to sign his report, it would have a hard time in plenary.

“I will ask him to give scientific findings that Dengvaxia has caused the death of the children, he should be able to present it, or his report would be nothing,” he added.

Gordon said he expects Trillanes to side with Aquino since he has been allied with the former president. He also could not blame Lacson for his statement because it was during the time of Aquino when Lacson came out of hiding, Gordon added.

“He (Lacson) had a very difficult time during the (term) of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He went into hiding and he only surfaced during the time of President Aquino and he was even made chairman of the Yolanda rehabilitation,” Gordon said.

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