MANILA - Anti-crime advocates on Friday filed a complaint against former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and some 20 other former officials for violating the 2016 election ban on government projects with a dengue vaccination program.
Former Budget Secretary Butch Abad and former Health Secretary Janette Garin were also named in the complaint that was filed before the Commission on Elections by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.
Aquino and his officials violated election laws when they implemented the Dengvaxia program on April 4, 2016, within the 45-day election ban on government projects for the May 2016 elections, said VACC legal counsel Manuelito Luna.
The VACC also alleged that the respondents violated laws against electioneering.
"They used the program under the guise of addressing an emergency but they did not seek any exemption from the Comelec," Luna told reporters.
"They have disrespected the name of the Comelec and rendered the election under suspicion," he said.
COMELEC TO REVIEW COMPLAINT
Christian Lim, acting chair of the Comelec, said on Friday his commission has yet to evaluate whether Aquino and his officials did violate the 45-day election ban.
He, however, clarified that the ban only covers the actual contract-signing and not the implementation.
"Depende kung totoo bang within 45 o hindi o pasok ba sa exception pero wala akong matandaan na nanghingi ng exception ang DOH," Lim said.
"Let's say dati pa may negotiation at implementation lang ng contract yun, wala yung violation," he added.
The government spent P3.5 billion to purchase Dengvaxia for one million public school children in regions reported to have the highest incidence of dengue in 2015.
The vaccine was given to about 830,000 children in Metro Manila, Southern Luzon, Central Luzon and Central Visayas.
The Department of Health suspended the vaccination program last year after its manufacturer, France's Sanofi Pasteur, admitted that Dengvaxia might cause more severe symptoms on those who have not contracted dengue.
Sanofi Pasteur has returned about P1.6 billion to the government, and Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Philippines would take legal action against the French drug-maker if it refuses to fully refund the P3.5 billion.
-with a report from Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News