House panel seeks raps vs Noynoy, several others over Dengvaxia mess

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 06 2019 12:54 PM | Updated as of Feb 06 2019 05:44 PM

Former President Benigno Aquino III, former health secretary Janette Garin, and former budget chief Butch Abad.

MANILA - (2nd UPDATE) A House panel recommended Wednesday the filing of criminal and administrative charges against former president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and several others over government's suspended dengue vaccination program.

The chamber's move stems from the controversy over the use of anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia in the national immunization program launched in 2016, just before the end of Aquino's term. 

French drug-maker Sanofi Pasteur had warned in late 2017 that the vaccine may trigger severe symptoms if administered on those who have never contracted dengue. 

At the same time, it said no death has been confirmed to have been caused by the drug amid complaints from parents who lost their children after inoculation. 

Aside from Aquino, others recommended charged by the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability were the following:

- former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad
- former Health Secretary Janette Garin
- Philippine Children's Medical Center (PCMC) Executive Director Dr. Julius Lecciones
- Dr. Maria Joyce Ducusin
- Dr. Julius Lecciones
- Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go
- members of the PCMC Bids and Awards Committee

Lawmakers said these officials should be held liable for alleged violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and technical malversation over the Dengvaxia vaccine purchase. 

The said officials allegedly conspired to implement the dengue immunization program even while health experts have yet to confirm the efficacy of the Dengvaxia vaccine.

Lawmakers also noted that the said officials “provided shortcuts in the process to favor Sanofi Pasteur.”

Last year, Aquino, Abad and Garin were charged with plunder, malversation and graft before the Office of the Ombudsman for their involvement in the procurement and use of Dengvaxia in the national immunization program. 

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Malacañang defers to the House of Representative regarding its recommendation to file charges against the former president.

"Let the legal process take its course and those found responsible be held administratively, criminally and civilly liable," Panelo said in a statement.

"We reiterate the policy of the administration that whoever transgresses the law will have to account for it regardless of the social status and the political affiliation of the transgressor."

The Philippines in 2017 recalled Dengvaxia from the market and cancelled the government's dengue immunization program following Sanofi's warning. 

Some 800,000 school children were inoculated under the program.

Reports of alleged deaths due to Dengvaxia have spawned a vaccination scare that led to a drop in immunization coverage in the country to 40 percent last year, from an average 70 percent in recent years.

- reports from Zandro Ochona and Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News