Former President Aquino not yet off the hook in Dengvaxia issue — JV Ejercito
Former President Benigno Aquino III may have acted in good faith, but he may still be held liable for the questionable purchase of the Dengvaxia vaccine under the principle of command responsibility, Sen. JV Ejercito said.
“If we’re going to talk of command responsibility, I think President Aquino has liability,” Ejercito said in a radio interview Saturday.
Mr. Aquino’s subordinates, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and former Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa also have a lot of explaining to do on the P3.5 billion worth of antidengue vaccine bought in haste, the senator added.
The purchase was not in the General Appropriations Act and was funded by savings, which meant that this did not pass Congress, Ejercito said, adding that he did not buy Abad’s excuse that “it was the usual practice and prerogative of the President to realign savings at the end of the year.”
But the senator said Mr. Aquino need not be present in the next Senate hearing on the vaccine.
“I have to be honest, I am not a fan of President Aquino. I disagree with many of what was done during his administration. But his integrity, President Aquino is still honest. But I can’t say the same thing about his men,” Ejercito said.
In Iloilo City, Rep. Oscar Garin Jr. denied former Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial’s claims that he had pressured her to buy more vaccines, and that her confirmation was prejudiced by her opposition to the mass vaccination drive.
“It is the work of Congress to scrutinize budgets submitted to it by (government agencies), and (budgets) for projects to be implemented in the different congressional districts,” Garin said in a statement.
Garin, an ally of President Duterte and husband of former Health Secretary Janette Garin under whose term the mass dengue vaccination program started, said he merely asked if the children who had received two doses of the vaccine need to pay for the third dose, or if the Department of Health would.
“I did not expect that (such) a question would be (considered) as pressure by Secretary Ubial,” Garin said.
In his statement, Garin also said he was not a member of the Commission on Appointments (CA) and that the CA had rejected Ubial “for many reasons.”
Respect the FEC
The Garins, one of the biggest political clans in Iloilo, were former allies of former President Benigno Aquino III’s Liberal Party, but joined the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) soon after the May 2016 elections.
Following the controversial purchase of the Dengvaxia vaccine, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said health officials should respect and listen to the DOH’s Formulary Executive Council (FEC), which is composed of 11 experts.
“Being a (health) secretary does not make you an expert on those subject matters,” he added over DZBB radio on Saturday.
The FEC, which was against mass dengue immunization and wanted a small pilot test instead, is composed of experts in pharmacology, toxicology, clinical epidemiology, pharmacy, clinical medicine, public health, health economics, health social science, law and medicine.
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima meanwhile praised her erstwhile boss, former President Benigno Aquino III, for his demeanor at the recent hearing on the antidengue vaccine, even as she scored Sen. Richard Gordon’s handling of the joint inquiry.
“That Duterte relatives were given more VIP treatment than a former President by Gordon says a lot about the fairness of hearings conducted by the senator. Grandstanding, ego self-gratification, and microphone-hogging can be excused, but not contrived set-ups, innuendos and dramatizations that indicate partiality, or worse, prejudgment,” De Lima said in a statement.
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