House panel to invite Aquino to Dengvaxia probe

Rg Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 07 2018 06:08 PM

Former President Benigno Aquino III appears at the Senate hearing on his administration's procurement of the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine, December 14, 2017. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A House of Representatives panel has decided to invite former President Benigno Aquino III to its next hearing on the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine.

It was Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza who moved for the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability to invite the former chief executive, under whose term government's dengue immunization program was launched. 

"Many people were clamoring. Let's hear it from him (Aquino) and not from his representative. We invite the former president and his budget secretary, not representatives," Atienza said.

The panel earlier approved a motion to invite Aquino's former budget chief Florencio Abad.

The committee had initiated a joint probe with the House Committee on Health on the Dengvaxia controversy amid a health scare triggered by drug maker Sanofi Pasteur's admission that the drug may cause severe symptoms if given to those who had never contracted dengue. 

Aquino and Abad had previously faced a Senate probe on the mass vaccination program, which was suspended in December following Sanofi's warning.

Some 830,000 public school students were given Dengvaxia shots under the campaign the Aquino administration launched in 2015. 

At least 5 vaccine recipients died less than 6 months after receiving the drug, the Public Attorney's Office claimed, but local health experts said there was no evidence directly linking the vaccine to any of the 14 alleged deaths investigated by the Philippine General Hospital.

Sanofi has also asserted that there has been no reported death due to Dengvaxia out of over 1 million shots administered worldwide.

Aquino and his former cabinet officials have been charged with mass murder, plunder and graft complaints at the Office of the Ombudsman over the Dengvaxia controversy.