DOJ compels VACC, Vanguard to submit evidence on Dengvaxia complaint

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 23 2018 04:27 PM

MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has ordered the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc to complete the evidence they filed to back their criminal complaint against former President Benigno Aquino III and former members of his cabinet over the Dengvaxia mess.

The DOJ said unnamed respondents should be named and pieces of evidence should be completed and submitted on April 20 before a panel of state prosecutors decides whether or not to proceed with the preliminary investigation of the case and subpoena respondents.

The DOJ panel clarified that it is not their responsibility to produce the evidence for the complainants after they requested the department to issue subpoenas duces tecum or orders for the production of necessary evidence.

VACC lawyer Manuelito Luna, however, said they are already "in possession" of the required documentary evidence.

The DOJ panel is composed of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rossane Balauag as chair, and members Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Hazel Decena Valdez, Assistant State Prosecutor Consuelo Corazon Pazziuagan, and Assistant State Prosecutor Gino Paolo Santiago.

Vanguard and the VACC filed a complaint for graft, malversation of public funds, causing undue injuries and violations of the procurement law against Aquino, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and former Health Secretary Janette Garin over the dengue vaccine controversy.

Also accused are former and current officials of the Department of Health and executives of pharmaceutical firms Zuellig and Sanofi Pasteur, maker of the anti-dengue drug.

The DOJ said complainants are required to attend the April 20 hearing on the matter while no decision has been made yet on whether or not to summon Aquino and his co-respondents.

The charges were filed against officials of the former administration following Sanofi Pasteur's admission in November that Dengvaxia might increase the risk of severe dengue in recipients who have not yet contracted dengue.

At the time, over 830,000 school children had already been inoculated with the drug under the nationwide immunization program initiated during Aquino's time. 

The government suspended the program in December following Sanofi's warning. 

The drug maker has maintained, meanwhile, that the drug remains safe and effective and has not caused any death among those given Dengvaxia shots.