FORMER president Benigno Aquino 3rd arrived early Thursday for the Senate hearing on the controversial P3.5 billion dengue immunization program during his term.
Aquino said he was confident that he could answer all the issues regarding the alleged questionable purchase of the Dengavaxia vaccine.
“I think we’re confident in our position and there’s an opportunity to answer the innuendos being thrown left and right,” Aquino said in a chance interview before the start of the investigation.
The Senate Blue Ribbon and Health Committees are investigating the procurement of Dengvaxia, a vaccine manufactured by the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur.
“The announcement by Sanofi and the reactions to it, there’s been a lot of tension built up. It’s incumbent upon me as citizen to try and allay certain fears to put it in proper perspective,” he said.
The former president arrived at the Senate shortly after 9 a.m. and proceeded to the office of his cousin, Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th.
Aquino met with the officials of Sanofi twice prior to the procurement of the vaccine, which was recently found to cause severe symptoms for those who have not been infected by the dengue virus.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, chairman of the health committee in an interview said he wanted Aquino to explain why he met with the officials of Sanofi.
The P3.5 billion anti-dengue immunization program that was started on April 2016 was put on hold in November after Sanofi revealed to the Department of Health (DoH) that the vaccine posed a risk to first-time dengue victims.
The disclosure caused fear and anger among families of the over 700,000 children who were given Dengvaxia.
Aside from the health risk posed by Dengvaxia, the funds used to purchase the vaccine are also under investigation since these were not appropriated in the 2016 budget under Aquino.
With the suspension of the distribution of Dengvaxia, there is the question of what will happen to the 789,000 doses of the vaccine left amounting to P700 million, according to DoH.
The Philippines is the first country in Asia to administer Dengvaxia to dengue victims. JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA, BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO, DEEJ GARCIA