House panel blasts 'dishonesty, misrepresentation' in Dengvaxia mess

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 27 2018 11:17 AM

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MANILA - The House committee on good government and public accountability is eyeing a recommendation for the filing of charges against officials from the previous administration for their involvement in the suspended dengue immunization program, the panel chairman said Tuesday.

The committee concluded its probe into the Dengvaxia mess, which it conducted together with the Committee on Health, on Monday.

Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said the committee hopes to come up with the report by March 21.

"As far as this committee is concerned, there is a high probability that we will consider recommending the filing of cases against the previous officials," he told ANC's Headstart.

The committee report will also hold pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur accountable for not disclosing material information on Dengvaxia, which could have stopped the Aquino administration from purchasing P3.5 billion worth of the vaccine, said Pimentel.

He added, there was "undue haste" on the part of the government in procuring the drug, which was touted to be the world's first dengue vaccine.

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The government procured P3-billion worth of Dengvaxia intended for a million public school children in areas reported to have the highest incidence of dengue in 2015: Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and CALABARZON. The vaccine was to be administered in three phases at 6 month intervals beginning April 2016.

The French drug-maker last year said the vaccine could lead to more severe symptoms if given to those who have not had the mosquito-borne disease before. The Department of Health subsequently suspended its vaccination program after the admission from Sanofi Pasteur.

"There was dishonesty on their part, there was misrepresentation because if they had informed the Philippine government beforehand, probably the former officials of the former administration would not push through with the purchase of Dengvaxia," Pimentel said.

Pimentel's committee is also looking into possible violation of Budget Circular 559, which mandated that if funds are to be realigned, they have to be "in the same category," and of the Procurement Law.

Former Budget Secretary Butch Abad told lawmakers on Monday that the use of savings from personnel benefits to purchase Dengvaxia was allowed in the Supreme Court ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program.