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Comelec summons Aquino, et al for poll case linked to Dengvaxia issue

The Commission on Elections has summoned ex-President Benigno Aquino III and two former Cabinet secretaries over an election offense case linked to the Dengvaxia controversy.

The poll body’s law department issued a subpoena for Aquino, ex-budget secretary Florencio Abad and ex-health secretary Janette Garin for them to appear on March 15 at 10 am.

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During the preliminary hearing, the three will be required to submit their counter-affidavits to a complaint filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) last month.

The subpoena was signed by Maria Norina Tangaro-Casino, director of the Comelec law department.

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It may be recalled that the VACC and Dr. Francis Cruz filed an election offense complaint against Aquino and the other former government officials for the implementation of the government’s dengue vaccination program in 2016.

Also named in the complaint were several Department of Health officials: health undersecretaries Carol Tanio, Gerardo Bayugo, Lilibeth David, Mario Villaverde; assistant secretaries Lyndon Lee Suy and Nestor Santiago;

Directors Laureano Cruz, Joyce Ducusin, Julius Lecciones, Mar Wynn Bello; Directors IV Leonila Gorgolon, Rio Magpantay, Ariel Valencia; ex-undersecretaries Nemesio Gako, Vicente Belizario Jr, Kenneth Hartigan-Go, and Dr Yolanda Oliveros.

The VACC alleged that the April 4, 2016 implementation of the program, which used the Dengvaxia vaccine, falls within the 45-day poll ban on government projects ahead of the May 2016 polls.

The vaccine was given to 837,000 school children but was later withdrawn from the market and the immunization suspended, following Sanofi Pasteur’s admission that it may increase the risk of severe dengue in seronegative recipients.

The respondents were accused of committing election offenses when they used public funds for an election campaign, despite a prohibition under the Omnibus Election Code.

An election offense carries a penalty of imprisonment from one to six years, removal of the right to vote, and disqualification from holding public office.

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In a separate subpoena, the Comelec law department also summoned Tanio, Bayugo, David, Villaverde, Lee Suy, Santiago, Cruz, Ducusin and Bello to appear on March 8, also at 10 am.

They were also directed to submit their counter-affidavits to the complaint against them.

Meanwhile, Cruz, and Dr. Clarito Cairo Jr., another VACC witness, were told to appear on March 8, 9 and 15 to affirm their complaint and testify during the said preliminary hearings.

Lawyer Manuelito Luna, the legal counsel for the VACC, said the Comelec law department will determine the existence of probable cause once it receives the affidavits of all concerned parties.   /muf

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TAGS: Aquino, Comelec, Dengvaxia, Election
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