PAO asks SC: Create special courts for Dengvaxia cases
The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) on Monday urged the Supreme Court (SC) to create special courts to handle criminal and civil cases over the deaths of children inoculated with the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine.
“We have already submitted to the Supreme Court our request in writing. We hope the Supreme Court will act favorably on our request that will expedite the resolution of cases filed by families of victims,” PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta told reporters after the preliminary investigation hearing at the Department of Justice (DOJ).
PAO has filed more than 10 criminal complaints before the DOJ and four independent civil actions for damages before various Quezon City courts.
Acosta said the first civil case was raffled to QC Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 91 while the other three cases were raffled to QC RTC Branches 226, 84, and 230.
“As a result of the Histopathological examinations of the tissue samples taken from the cadavers who underwent Forensic Examination, other criminal complaints and civil cases will be filed respectively. These cases involve same causes of action leading to separate and independent criminal and administrative liabilities,” she said.
She lamented the lack of significant progress in the first civil case filed by several families before the Quezon City court since the judge handling it is already up for retirement.
The PAO chief explained that once the DOJ decides to file the criminal cases in court, they would seek continuous trial of the cases or daily hearings as provided under SC rules.
“In order to avoid conflicting decisions should the cases be heard in different regional trial courts, may we request that one special court in RTC Manila and one in Quezon City be designated to try the criminal and civil cases respectively,” she added.
Families of 17 schoolchildren, who died allegedly due to Dengvaxia vaccine, have so far filed charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide under the Revised Penal Code and violations of Anti-Torture Act and Consumer Act against former Health Secretary Janette Garin, and 36 other health officials as well as executives of vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur Inc. and distributor Zuellig Pharma Corp. before the DOJ.
The complaints were filed by families of victims Aejay Bautista, Angelica Pestilos, Lenard Baldonado, Zandro Colite, Abbie Hedia, Jansyn Bataan, Mark Axel Ebonia, Rey Justin Almagno, Alexander Jaime, Naomi Nimura, Michael Tablate, John Paul Rafael, Clarissa Alcantara, Erico Leabres Christine Mae De Guzman, Roshaine Cariño and Christine Joy Asuncion.
The complainants accused Garin and others of negligence through “arbitrarily, maliciously, and deliberately failure to inform the Dengvaxia recipients and their parents/families of the dangers and risks related to Dengvaxia and to obtain their informed consent.”
They cited the failure of the DOH under Garin to conduct proper screening of Dengvaxia recipients and to implement active and aggressive monitoring and surveillance of recipients, considering the risks posed by the vaccine to seronegative patients or those who had no history of dengue.
The PAO has so far documented at least 92 deaths from the controversial vaccine approved and implemented during the previous administration. Acosta said they will be assisting the families of at least 10 more victims. /kga
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