DOJ orders Aquino to answer Dengvaxia charges
The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday ordered former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to answer the criminal complaint filed against him by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution (VPC) in connection with the controversial anti-dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia.
Aquino was required to personally appear before the DOJ to file his counter-affidavit on June 4.
Aside from Aquino, former Health Secretary Janette Garin and former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad were also directed to personally appear before the DOJ and submit their affidavits next month.
“Our next hearing is on June 4 at 10 a.m., so please tell your clients to be physically present,” Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rossane Balauag said during Tuesday’s preliminary investigation.
Aquino was represented in the hearing by his counsel, Mildred Umali.
Balauag said they took cognizance of the case despite the graft aspect which falls under the primary jurisdiction of the Ombudsman because “the complaint filed against respondents does not pertain to violation of the anti-graft law alone.”
“The DOJ assumes jurisdiction on other crimes, like technical malversation and violation of procurement law, that’s why we assume jurisdiction. But there are other offenses covered under the jurisdiction of the National Prosecution Service,” she said during the hearing.
Balauag assured the complainants and the respondents that the panel will be fair in the conduct of the preliminary investigation and the resolution of the case.
“The panel will be fair, just and equitable in resolving the complaint,” she said.
Also named respondents in the case were Health Undersecretaries Dr. Carol Tanio, Gerardo Bayugo, Lilibeth David and Mario Villaverde; Assistant Secretaries Lyndon Lee Suy and Nestor Santiago; DOH Financial Management Service director Laureano Cruz; directors Dr. Joyce Ducusin, Dr. May Wynn Belo, Dr. Leonila Gorgolon, Dr. Rio Magpantay, Dr. Ariel Valencia and Dr. Julius Lecciones; retired health undersecretaries Dr. Nemesio Gako, Dr. Vicente Belizario Jr., Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go; and Dr. Yolanda Oliveros, who served as Garin’s head executive assistant.
Other respondents include officials and employees of the pharmaceutical company Zuellig, which distributed the Dengvaxia vaccine, and its manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur.
The VACC and VPCI sued Aquino and the other respondents for possible violation of Section 3 of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act); Section 65 of RA 9184 (Government Procurement,
Reform Act); Article 220 (Technical Malversation) of the Revised Penal Code; Article 365 (Criminal Negligence) of the Revised Penal Code; and other laws.
In their complaints, the VACC and VPCI said Aquino and the other respondents “anomalously and illegally funded and procured the Dengvaxia vaccine and “ill-advisedly, thoughtlessly, and imprudently” implemented the dengue immunization program.
The complainants said they should be held liable for the effects of the vaccine on those who were inoculated and for the deaths of several children.
A total of 860,000 people, including 830,000 children, received the Dengvaxia shots before the DOH stopped the program in November last year, after Sanofi announced that the vaccine may pose risks to those who have no history of dengue infection. /ee
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