Aquino justifies use of gov’t savings to buy Dengvaxia
Former President Benigno S. Aquino III justified the use of government savings to procure the now-controversial vaccine Dengvaxia, during Thursday’s Senate investigation on the P3.5 billion anti-dengue immunization program of the government.
Aquino said he gave the green light for the purchase of the vaccine using the “unutilized” funds for 2015 because the savings were set to expire at the end of that year.
“If by December 31, you do not utilize these unutilized funds, it reverts back to the national treasury, then how do you fund it? You can go and ask for a supplemental budget, which requires new sources of revenue,” Aquino told senators.
The former President said that the procurement of Dengvaxia was not included in the 2016 General Appropriations Act (GAA), which provides for the national budget, because it was not yet part of the Philippine National Drug Formulary at that time.
The Formulary is the roster of medicines that the government could use and buy.
The decision to go ahead with the procurement of the vaccine also came after the preparation and approval of the 2016 GAA, which Aquino signed on December 22, 2015.
“If you do not do this at this point in time you’re practically saying that the first implementation of this vaccine will be in 2017 because it will be for the next budget cycle, which will be under the new administration,” Aquino explained.
“Assuming that there is a learning curve also in the beginning of the administration, there is no guarantee that it will happen in 2017,” he added.
While maintaining he had no questions on Aquino’s credibility, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chair Richard Gordon raised doubts on the quick approval of the vaccine’s procurement.
“Napakahalaga talaga siguro ng dengue vaccine at talagang ang bilis na-approve ng FDA [Food and Drugs Administration], nakakuha kaagad ng Saro,” Gordon said, referring to the special allotment release order (Saro) that warranted the purchase of the vaccine.
(The dengue vaccine seems to be very important and it got the quick approval of the FDA and immediately got a Saro.)
A Saro is a document issued by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) that approves the actual release of funds from the National Treasury.
“Well, again, I’m sorry Mr. President, na natapat lang. December 1, nagmeeting kayo sa Paris tapos biglang dumating kagad ito at natanggap kagad ang Saro at narelease yung pera later on,” Gordon added.
(Well again, I’m sorry, Mr. President, it was a coincidence. December 1, you met in Paris then the Saro was released and the funds were issued later on.)
The Saro for the P3.5-billion purchase of the vaccine was issued on December 29, 2015, or more than three weeks after Aquino’s meeting with Sanofi Pasteur officials in Paris, France on December 1.
The hearing was being carried out jointly by the Senate blue ribbon, health, and finance committees, intending to look into the circumstances surrounding the anti-dengue immunization program, including Dengvaxia – the anti-dengue vaccine manufactured by French drug company Sanofi Pasteur. /kga
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.