AN ANTI-CRIME watchdog on Monday files multiple homicide and physical injuries through negligence charges against former President Benigno Aquino III, two former Cabinet secretaries and 17 others in connection with the reported deaths of children inoculated with the anti-dengue Dengvaxia vaccine.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc. also named as respondents former Budget secretary Florencio Abad; former Health secretary Janette Garin; incumbent Health Undersecretaries Carol Tanio, Gerardo Bayugo, Lilibeth David and Mario Villaverde; 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.
The two organizations also accused the respondents of complicity with senior executives of French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur, the developer and manufacturer of Dengvaxia; and Zuellig Pharma, DoH’s supplier of the vaccine.
“Since [a] correlation between [the] vaccine and deaths had been established prima facie, respondents Aquino III, Abad, Garin and the other respondents...should stand trial for criminal negligence... The respondents should be charged with multiple homicide and physical injuries through criminal negligence,” VACC lawyer Manuelito Luna and Eligio Mallari of VPCI said in their complaint.
“They should be held to account for the natural and probable consequences of their acts. [He who is the cause of the cause, is the cause of the evil caused.] Clearly, the deaths and dengue shock or adverse events noted following inoculation of Dengvaxia are correlated or linked. The causal relationship between vaccine and deaths, dengue shock or adverse events, under the circumstances, could hardly be ignored. And the number of counts would be the number of subjects inoculated irrespective of the number of doses administered,” the complainant said.
Dr. Francisco Cruz, who earlier testified in the Senate inquiry on the controversy, also joined the VACC and VPCI as a co-complainant.
Apart from multiple homicide and physical injuries, the complaint also included charges of malversation of public funds and violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Government Procurement Reform Act.
The complainants said Aquino and the other respondents should be liable under these laws after they “anomalously and illegally funded and procured the Dengvaxia vaccine and ill-advisedly, thoughtlessly and imprudently implemented the dengue immunization” project of the DoH.
According to the complainants, the purchase of the Dengvaxia vaccine was approved by Aquino and Abad even though the program had no allocation in the 2016 national budget.
They also claimed that the mass vaccination program was part of a political maneuver to prop up the presidential campaign of then Interior Secretary Manel Roxas II and other candidates of Aquino’s then ruling Liberal Party in the May 2016 elections.
When asked why they filed the charges ahead of the investigations of government agencies on the controversy, Luna said they conducted their own fact-finding probe and had independent findings.
“We are not dependent on the findings of the government. The VACC has always been an independent organization,” he said.
The lawyer also said that they have submitted to the DOJ evidence as well as records of the Senate and DoH probes, including the still inconclusive findings of Philippine General Hospital doctors that three of the 14 suspected deaths were caused by Dengvaxia.
Earlier this month, the VACC filed a complaint for violation of election laws before the Commission on Elections against Aquino and the other former officials also in relation to the Dengvaxia controversy.
The DoH suspended the P3.5-billion dengue vaccination program in December 2017 after Sanofi reported that the vaccine posed risks to children who had no history of the disease.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has tapped the National Bureau of Investigation and Public Attorney’s Office to conduct a fact-finding probe to determine possible liabilities of officials behind the project that was approved during the Aquino administration.
Aquino and Garin have both denied any irregularly in the purchase of the vaccine.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, meanwhile, urged the Department of Education to order public schools to identify and monitor students immunized with Dengvaxia. With Macon Ramos-Araneta
“Teachers and administrative leaders of all schools involved should join forces in creating a database of students who were immunized by Dengvaxia. Students who are showing symptoms of dengue should immediately be brought to the doctor to prevent future complications,” said Gatchalian, a member of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.
The vaccine has caused a nationwide panic after the deaths of 14 children were alleged to be linked to Dengvaxia. However, there are still no conclusive findings that would directly link the vaccine to the deaths.
Sanofi has denied a Health Department request for a full refund of all the vaccines used and the establishment of an indemnification fund. With Macon Ramos-Araneta
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