DOJ clears former health chief Ubial, et al. of libel
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has dismissed the complaint for libel filed against former Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial and several others in connection with the statements she made against the proponents of the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine.
Aside from Ubial, former health consultant Dr. Francisco Cruz, Dr. Anthony Leachon, and Dr. Teodoro Herbosa were also cleared of libel raps.
The DOJ’s resolution covered 10 separate libel complaints filed before the Office of the Prosecutors of Iloilo, Quezon City, and Manila.
The complainants were former Health Secretary Janette Garin, her husband Iloilo Rep. Oscar Garin Jr., and other officials of the Department of Health (DOH), namely, Dr. Julius Lecciones, Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, Dr. Mario Villaverde, Maria Carolina Vidal-Taino, Gerarda Bayugo, Lilibeth David, Nestor Santiago Jr., Laureano Cruz, Maria Joyce Ducusin, and Mar Wyn Bello.
The complainants said the statements made by Ubial, Cruz, Leachon, and Herbosa during legislative investigations and press conferences, which were carried on various media platforms, have damaged their reputation.
The DOJ said that while the complainants felt offended by the statements implying that they have committed a crime, the most important element of libel which is “malice” is missing.
“In this case, respondents are medical practitioners, with the moral and legal duty to preserve the life and health of the people. It is understandable that like the general public, they were likewise enraged by the alleged effects of the Dengvaxia vaccine administered to school children where most died,” the DOJ resolution reads.
“While there is no established link of the effect of the said drug to the human body, it appears that there were already some protests/studies/comments from medical practitioners relative to the administration of this vaccine…It can then be said that the respondents who were very vocal in their objections…had acted out of the sense of justice, thus negating actual malice,” the DOJ added.
The resolution was signed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Lilian Doris Alejo and Acting Prosecutor General Richard Anthony Fadullon.
The 10 complaints were consolidated upon the order of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra under Department Order No. 298 dated May 21, 2018.
“We resolve the foregoing complaints jointly, as they stemmed from incident — the investigation of the death of a number of children allegedly because they were vaccinated with the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine,” the DOJ resolution said. /ee
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