Garin tells Gordon: Why single me out?
Former Health Secretary Janette Garin on Thursday suggested that Sen. Richard Gordon had launched a political attack on the previous administration by prematurely releasing a report on the Senate investigation of the Dengvaxia controversy.
The draft report of the Senate blue ribbon committee headed by Gordon recommended criminal charges of graft and violation of the state ethics code against former President Benigno Aquino III, his budget secretary, Florencio Abad, Garin and seven other former Department of Health (DOH) officials in an alleged conspiracy to use the antidengue vaccine for the botched P3.5-billion mass immunization program.
In an interview with the Inquirer, Garin asked why Gordon singled her out and absolved her predecessor, Dr. Enrique Ona, and her successor, Dr. Paulyn Ubial.
“I don’t know why Senator Gordon was very personal in hitting me. Why focus on me? Is it because I was an appointee of President Aquino?” she said.
“The only reason I could think of was that he was probably misinformed by people who were not happy then with my appointment to the DOH,” she added.
Garin said Gordon should have also recommended charges against Ubial because her successor expanded the coverage of the immunization program, spending more money.
Only around 400,000, not more than 800,000 students, received Dengvaxia shots during her term, and with their parents’ consent, “unlike during Secretary Ubial’s time,” Garin said.
“We spent P1 billion. It was during the time of Secretary Ubial that the program was expanded and the second and third doses were given. They spent P2 billion,” Garin said.
During a press conference that he called on Wednesday to disclose his draft report, Gordon belittled Garin’s credentials as a doctor, saying she had only two years of practice as an obstetrician-gynecologist compared to the more extensive experience of Ona.
Garin said Gordon’s report appeared to be more of a defense of the appointment of Ona and Ubial to the health secretary post.
“I thought the purpose of the investigation was in aid of legislation? But the report appeared to be in aid of justifying why Ona should not have been fired and Ubial should not have been rejected,” she said.
“That’s basically the gist of the report—Ona and Ubial were not at fault. Ubial is good, she should not have been rejected. Ona should not have been fired and replaced. So is it my fault that the President (Aquino) chose me and gave me his trust and confidence?” Garin added.
She said if Gordon “were a responsible senator,” he should have waited for other senators to vet the report before it is released to the public.
“But if you release it prematurely, it would no longer matter if there were corrections because the truth has already been overshadowed by inaccuracies and half-truths. That’s the sad part,” she said.
For one, the report “intentionally omitted” a World Health Organization statement saying Dengvaxia was safe and effective, and endorsed for use in countries with high incidence of dengue like the Philippines, she said.
In an angry response, Ubial said Garin had no one to blame for the Dengvaxia mess but herself.
“All of us advised her not to introduce it during election period! She’s hardheaded, she still went on with it! So don’t blame me!” Ubial said in a text message to the Inquirer. “What does she want? That we go to jail and she is scot-free?”
“Let her be! The guilty points to just anybody!” she said.
Ubial also said she felt bad that Garin was trying to implicate her and Ona in the controversy instead of being happy that no one else would be charged.
“She should wish us well!” she said, adding that Garin should defend her actions not by citing decisions or moves made by other health secretaries.
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