VACC lawyer: Case may lead to plunder vs Aquino, Garin
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) on Saturday said it is set to present a witness—a Department of Health (DOH) insider—before the Senate to testify on the “hasty” procurement of Dengvaxia vaccines.
Ferdinand Topacio, VACC’s legal adviser, said the witness is a doctor who has been with the department for 14 years.
“The witness considered it his civil duty to expose what transpired with the procurement and the dangers of administering the vaccine to children,” Topacio said in the weekly forum, Kapihan sa Annabel’s.
“One big thing is that this may lead to a plunder case against former President (Benigno Aquino 3rd), Secretary (Janet) Garin and other DoH officials involved in the procurement, for placing a generation, around 733,000 children at that, in danger,” he said. The Health department had said that more than 800,000 schoolchidren were inoculated with Dengvaxia under the government’s free dengue vaccination program.
Topacio said many factors raised questions on the procurement of the vaccine.
“We have seen many questions regarding the matter and the leveling up of cover-ups by those involved. Why the obscene haste? Bakit [Why] Dengvaxia pa na hindi pa pala [that apparently has not yet been]proven?” Topacio asked.
He raised other factors that further cast suspicion on the procurement of the vaccines, such as the timing of the procurement as the vaccines were reportedly purchased on an election year.
Topacio said the areas chosen for administering the vaccine were rich in voters and the vaccines were administered in the middle of the summer vacation.
“’Di ba dapat pasukan ang pagbakuna, lahat ng bata nasa eskwelahan [Isn’t vaccination supposed to be carried out when schools are open and schoolchildren are surely in schools]?” Topacio asked.
The witness’ claims and other revelations, he added, were validated by the VACC, who asked other people and key personnel to confirm the witness’ credentials.
“If sanctions are not given to all those involved, the public will be shortchanged. Let the hammer fall to where it may,” Topacio told The Manila Times.
The VACC lawyer said the witness will identify former and incumbent Health officials involved in the procurement, selection of beneficiaries, and administration of the vaccine.
“We managed to convince him to show himself and testify before the Senate blue ribbon committee on Monday…may formal invitation na ang taong it o sa Lunes (He has been formally invited),” Topacio said.
The DoH suspended the vaccination program after Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer of the vaccine, said Dengvaxia may trigger severe dengue cases in persons who had not had the disease.
The DoH has formed a task force to monitor and attend to the health of those who were vaccinated.
Dengue, which is transmitted through the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is an acute viral infection which may result in death if left untreated.
Garin has admitted meeting with Sanofi officials in Paris but stressed that there was no malice in the meeting.
The former Health chief had earlier denied having dinner with officials of the pharmaceutical giant.
“Tama po ‘yun, nagkamali po talaga ako kasi I was being asked on a dinner that happened two years ago,” Garin said in a television interview.
“Kung may malisya ‘yun, bakut mayroon tayong kasama from DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs)? ‘Yung una po kasi talagang intention eh lalabas po ba ‘yung bakuna? Kailan ba? Magkano ba talaga presyo?” she said.
Garin said the decision to use Dengvaxia was not made by her alone. It was under her term when the vaccine was first administered on children.
WITH REINA TOLENTINO