Senate panel files report on Dengvaxia mess


Posted at May 01 2018 03:40 PM | Updated as of May 01 2018 03:41 PM

MANILA - A Senate panel that investigated the controversy surrounding government's nationwide dengue immunization program has filed its report which found former President Benigno Aquino III and some of his officials liable.

Filed on Monday, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee report found Aquino, along with former Health Secretary Janette Garin, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Philippine Children's Medical Center Director Julius Lecciones and other officials of the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration liable for violation of several laws.

Sen. Richard Gordon, the committee chair, had bared findings of the panel earlier this month, seeking accountability of the former top officials after Dengvaxia maker Sanofi Pasteur revealed the drug's possible ill effects on those who have never had dengue. 

The submission would pave the way for plenary discussions on the committee report. 

“More than majority signed the recommendations and we can debate it. I am happy na pag-uusapan sa floor kasi diyan naman talaga dapat mag-debate, hindi naman sa labas (that it's being discussed on the floor because that's where it should be debated, not outside). We should debate within the chamber and within the rules,” Gordon said in a statement.

Some 830,000 school children were vaccinated under the program before Sanofi admitted late last year that Dengvaxia may cause severe dengue when given to patients who have not contracted the mosquito-borne disease. 

The government has since suspended its dengue vaccination program, but several parents claimed that their children died due to complications from the vaccine.

The Senate panel found Aquino and his former cabinet officials liable for allegedly violating several provisions of the anti-graft law, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and other laws in connection with the dengue immunization program.

Aquino and his aides have previously said that the dengue immunization program was rolled out with prudence.

Garin had previously criticized the committee report, calling it a "personal opinion" only of Gordon.

"My conscience is clear and I am ready to answer any charge that will be filed in the proper forum," she said.

Gordon, meanwhile, made the assurance that there was nothing political in the investigation or in the Senate panel report.

"[The] aim [of the] investigation has always been the protection of the children. Kaya tayo nag-imbestiga, to protect the children and to insulate the DOH (Department of Health) from politics na nakakasama sa kalusugan ng ating bayan (We are investigating to protect the children and to insulate the DOH from politics, which does harm to public health). What we are doing here is not political," he said.

The report also recommended the provision of enough funding for the monitoring of children injected with the Dengvaxia vaccine and proposed that part of the refunded amount from Sanofi Pasteur be allocated for the monitoring of vaccinated children.