Source of P3.5-billion Dengvaxia fund remains unclear: lawmaker

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 08 2017 01:17 PM

MANILA - Health officials who testified in a congressional inquiry last year failed to clearly identify the source of the P3.5-billion fund used to procure Dengvaxia vaccines for public school students, a lawmaker said Friday.

Department of Health (DOH) resource persons who appeared at House committee hearings on Dengvaxia between November and December 2016 gave "very inconsistent" statements, House Committee on Health chair Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan said in an interview on DZMM radio.

"Unang sinabi na ito ay galing sa retirement fund. At that time, hindi niya madetalye 'yung retirement fund. Next hearing, panibago na naman 'yung statement, sabi galing naman siya sa savings probably (of) the agency (DOH)," Tan said.

(At first they said it was sourced from the retirement fund. At that time, the resource person could not give details about the retirement fund. In the next hearing, they had a new statement, they said it was sourced from the savings probably of the agency.)

"Biglang sa joint hearing, sabi naman galing sa sin tax. Very inconsistent 'yung statement," Tan said.

(All of a suddent, in the joint hearing, they said it was sourced from the sin tax. The statements were very inconsistent.)

Tan did not identify the DOH resource person who gave inconsistent statements last year but said that a document issued by then Health Secretary Janet Garin was submitted to the committee.

"Kapag nakita niyo 'yung letter that DOH submitted to us, may letter doon si former Secretary Garin to [former] Executive Secretary (Paquito) Ochoa asking for funding galing sa savings," she said.

(The letter that DOH submitted to us showed that former Secretary Garin wrote to Executive Secretary Ochoa to ask for funding from the savings.)

In a separate interview, former Health Undersecretary Dr. Susan Mercado said the budget for the government's anti-dengue vaccination program did not pass through budget deliberations.

"Because it did not go through the budget of the DOH, it did not have enough time for the scrutiny needed to make sure that this is a safe and cost-efficient type of drug," Mercado said in an interview on ANC's Early Edition.

The House is set to reopen the investigation on the Dengvaxia deal after drug maker Sanofi Pasteur admitted last week that those who have not had dengue might suffer more severe symptoms if they get vaccinated. More than 700,000 children were given the vaccine under government's immunization program.