MANILA - The Commission on Elections' (Comelec) Law Department has summoned former President Benigno Aquino III and two of his former cabinet members over a complaint of election law violation linked to the controversial dengue vaccination program.
Aquino, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and former Health Secretary Janet Garin were called to appear at a preliminary hearing on March 15.
The three are facing a complaint filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption for the implementation of the immunization program on April 4, 2016, which falls within the 45-day election ban on government projects ahead of the May 2016 elections.
"They used the program under the guise of addressing an emergency but they did not seek any exemption from the Comelec," VACC legal counsel Manuelito Luna earlier said.
The government initiated the nationwide immunization program in the summer of 2016, purchasing P3.5 billion in Dengvaxia shots for 1 million public school children in regions reported to have the highest incidence of dengue.
The Department of Health stopped the program in December after Sanofi Pasteur said it might increase the risk of severe dengue in recipients who had not contracted the mosquito-borne disease.
At the time, over 800,000 school children had been given Dengvaxia shots.
Sanofi's announcement triggered a health scare, but the drug firm has asserted that no death has been confirmed to have been caused by the drug.
Aquino and the former cabinet members are also facing criminal complaints at the Office of the Ombudsman for their role in implementing the vaccination program.
The former leader earlier defended his administration's decision to implement the dengue vaccination program, saying it was intended to protect the people.
-- Report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News