Aquino at DOJ to answer raps over Dengvaxia
Update (4:40 p.m.)
Former President Benigno Aquino III appeared before the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday to answer the criminal complaint filed against him by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Incorporated (VPCI) related to the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine.
In his 27-page affidavit, Aquino asked the DOJ to dismiss the complaint against him for lack of merit.
Former Health Secretary Janette Garin and former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad joined Aquino.
The three and several others are facing complaints for multiple homicide, physical injuries through negligence under the Revised Penal Code, 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 for other violations of the law.
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 “by unduly influencing or exerting undue pressure on any member of the bids and awards committee or any officer or employee of the procuring entity to take a particular action which favors or tends to favor a particular bidder.”
The complainants said they should be held liable for the effects of Dengvaxia on those who were vaccinated, adding that the deaths of several children following their inoculation with Dengvaxia.
Aquino said while complainants VACC and VPCI submitted voluminous documents, they failed to explain its significance and relation to the allegations against him.
“In plain terms, complainants neglect to explain the relevance of the other equally voluminous documents that were attached to the Complaint. Thus, the respondents, as well as the Honorable Panel are left to guess and speculate on the supposed relevance, if any, of these documents and their evidentiary purposes,” Aquino said in the affidavit.
“Complainants’ abject failure to provide sufficient bases in fact and law to sustain the offenses charged and a finding of probable cause—must and should lead to the outright dismissal of the complaint filed before this Honorable panel,” he added.
Aquino also denied any anomaly in the procurement process of the controversial vaccine.
“Likewise, the procurement process was aboveboard and within the timelines prescribed by R.A. 9184, as determined by the DOH report. Finally, the dengue vaccine passed all required clinical trials, was found to be safe and effective and there were no reported adverse or ill-effects at the time of its approval, launch and implementation,” he explained.
In a press conference after the hearing, Aquino said that he approved the implementation of the program as one of the measures to address the rise in dengue cases at that time – from only 5,100 cases in 1995 to 200,415 in 2015.
The former president claimed there was nothing irregular about the immunization projects. He said the reports on the deaths of school children inoculated with the vaccine is a “misinformation” campaign that has hurt the public’s trust on the Department of Health and its immunization programs.
“Because of the sensationalization, misleading and misinformation, many parents have made the wrong decision of refusing vaccine for their school children. The health of our people are jeopardized because of this and that’s what I’m more concerned of,” Aquino said.
He believed that such “publicity” could have something to do with the midterm elections next year initiated by “those who want to generate recall.”
The other respondents from the DOH – undersecretaries Carol Tanio, Gerardo Bayugo, Lilibeth David and Mario Villaverde; former retired undersecretaries Nemesio Gako, Vicente Belizario Jr. and Kenneth Hartigan-Go; assistant secretaries Lyndon Lee Suy and Nestor Santiago; former financial management service director Laureano Cruz; incumbent DOH directors Joyce Ducusin, May Wynn Belo, Leonila Gorgolon, Rio Magpantay, Ariel Valencia and Julius Lecciones; and Garin’s former executive assistant Yolanda Oliveros – also submitted their answers to the complaints during the hearing yesterday.
The officers of Zuellig who were present in the hearing also submitted their counter-affidavits. They were Kasigod Jamias, Michael Becker, Ricardo Romulo, Imran Babar Chugtai, Raymund Azurin, Nilo Badiola, John Stokes Davison, Marc Franck, Ashley Gerard Antonio, Ana Liza Peralta, Rosa Maria Chua, Danilo Cahoy, Manuel Concio III, Roland Goco, and Ma. Visitacion Barreiro.
Only executives of Sanofi listed in the charge sheet – Carlito Realuyo, Sanislas Camart, Jean Louis Grunwald, Jean-Francois Vacherand, Conchita Santos, Jazel Anne Calvo, Pearl Grace Cabali and Marie Esther De Antoni – were not present because they were based abroad and not ready to submit their answers. /cbb
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