THE Department of Justice (DoJ) has summoned former President Benigno Aquino 3rd and two former Cabinet secretaries to respond to the criminal charges filed against them in connection with the series of deaths and serious illnesses of children inoculated with the controversial anti-dengue Dengvaxia vaccine.
A panel of investigating prosecutors issued a subpoena compelling Aquino and his former aides to appear today, May 15.
The DoJ will conduct its preliminary investigation on the complaint filed by two anti-crime advocacy groups and the families assisted by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).
Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rossane Balauag heads the DoJ panel. The members are Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Hazel Decena Valdez and Assistant State Prosecutors Consuelo Corazon Pazziuagan and Gino Paolo Santiago.
The complaint was filed by Philippine Anti-Corruption Commission Commissioner and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) lawyer Manuelito Luna, and Eligio Mallari of the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc.
Aside from Aquino, also ordered to appear were former health secretary Janette Garin and former budget secretary Florencio Abad. Also covered in the subpoena were officials of Zuellig Pharma and Sanofi Pasteur, which brought the vaccine to the Philippines.
Included in the charge sheet were health undersecretaries Carol Tinio, Gerardo Bayugo, Lilibeth David and Mario Villaverde; health assistant secretaries Lyndon Lee Suy and Nestor Santiago; other health officials, namely Laureano Cruz, Joyce Ducusin, Mar Wynn Bello, Leonila Gorgolon, Rio Magpantay, Ariel Valencia and Julius Lecciones; former health undersecretaries Nemesio Gako, Vicente Belizario, Jr. and Kenneth Hartigan-Go; Garin’s head executive assistant Yolanda Oliveros; unnamed directors and officers, or employees of Zuellig; and unnamed directors, officers or employees of Sanofi Pasteur.
In its complaint, the VACC said Aquino was clearly liable after he met with Sanofi officials abroad and juggled funds and authorized the release of P3.55 billion to procure the vaccines, within the 45-day election ban.
Criminal charges were filed against Abad for issuing the allotment order for the procurement. Garin was charged for allowing the procurement and the vaccination of children.
Sanofi was charged for “undue interest” over the implementation of the mass vaccination program.
Aquino and Garin were also accused of violating election laws by using the vaccination program “to further the candidacy of Liberal Party presidential bet Mar Roxas as well as the other candidates of the Liberal Party, at the expense of innocent children, and their utter disregard of the Procurement Law.”
“Irrefutably, some deaths and dengue shocks are linked to Dengvaxia. At Phase III (pivotal trials), the
respondents should know or should have known that the efficacy as well as safety of the subject vaccine should could not as yet be determined with pinpoint accuracy; hence, they should have desisted from proceeding to implement the dengue immunization program of the DOH on a mass scale,” the complaint stated.
It added that Aquino and the other respondents failed to comply with standards set by the World Health Organization on the licensing and post-licensing monitoring of Dengvaxia.
Early this month, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the creation of a three-man panel of experts to investigate the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine.
The Palace said conflicting findings of the PAO and the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital prompted Duterte “to seek further advice” through the foreign panel of experts.
Dengvaxia maker Sanofi had promoted the vaccine as a breakthrough in combating dengue, which kills hundreds of people in the Philippines, mostly children, every year.
But the company set off a panic when in November Sanofi said a new analysis showed the vaccine could lead to more severe symptoms for people who had not previously been infected with dengue.
In February, the Department of Health (DoH) confirmed that of the 14 children who died of various causes some time after receiving Dengvaxia, only three died of dengue, but none of the deaths could directly be attributed to the vaccine.
More than 830,000 public school students were injected with the Dengvaxia as part of an anti-dengue mass immunization program.