DOJ forms panel to probe Aquino, Abad, Garin over Dengvaxia mess

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 26 2018 10:34 PM | Updated as of Feb 26 2018 10:46 PM

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has formed a four-member panel to investigate the criminal complaint against former president Benigno Aquino III, two members of his Cabinet, and several others over the Dengvaxia mess.

Tasked to conduct the preliminary investigation of the complaint for criminal negligence and reckless imprudence, technical malversation, causing undue injuries, and violations of the Procurement Law filed by Vanguard of the Philippines, Inc. (VCPI) and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) are the following: 

- Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rossane Balauag (chairperson); 
- Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Hazel Decena Valdez; 
- Assistant State Prosecutor Consuelo Corazon Pazziuagan; 
- and Assistant State Prosecutor Gino Paolo Santiago. 

Aside from Aquino, the other respondents are former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, former Health Secretary Janet Garin; Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretaries Carol Tinio, Gerardo Bayugo, Lilibeth David, and Mario Villaverde; Health Assistant Secretaries Lyndon Lee Suy and Nestor Santiago; other Department of Health (DOH) officials namely, Laureano Cruz, Joyce Ducusin, Mar Wynn Bello, Leonila Gorgolon, Rio Magpantay, Ariel Valencia, and Julius Lecciones; former DOH Undersecretaries namely, Nemesio Gako, Vicente Belizario, Jr., and Kenneth Hartigan-Go; head executive assistant to Garin, Dr. Yolanda Oliveros; unnamed directors and officers or employees of Zuellig; and unnamed directors, officers or employees of Sanofi Pasteur.

The complaint alleged that the “actions and key roles played by the different respondents in the anti-dengue Dengvaxia mess and which caused undue injury to any private party” were evident during the hearings conducted by the Senate and House of Representatives into the controversy. 

As to Aquino’s alleged complicity, the complaint stated he met with Sanofi officials abroad “and juggled funds and authorized the release of a total of P3.55-billion” for the procurement of the vaccine within the 45-day election ban. 

Abad was charged for causing the issuance of the allotment order for the procurement, and Garin for being the health chief at the time. 

It also alleged that Aquino and the other respondents failed to comply with World Health Organization standards on the licensing and post-licensing monitoring of Dengvaxia, and failed to promptly disclose any adverse effects associated with the mass vaccination. 

“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.

The DOH stopped the administration of Dengvaxia last year after Sanofi Pasteur said it might increase the risk of severe dengue in recipients who have not yet contracted dengue. At the time, over 800,000 school children had been administered with the vaccine.