FORMER President Benigno Aquino III and two former Cabinet secretaries have been summoned to appear before the Department of Justice to answer criminal charges filed against them in connection with the reported deaths and serious illnesses of children inoculated with the controversial anti-dengue Dengvaxia vaccine.
In a subpoena, the DoJ’s panel of investigating prosecutors required Aquino, former Health secretary Janette Garin and former Budget secretary Florencio Abad to appear before the DoJ on March 23 at 10 a.m. for a preliminary investigation of the complaint filed by anti-corruption groups Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc. last month.
Aquino, Garin and Abad are expected to submit their respective counter-affidavits to the charges of multiple homicide and physical injuries under the Revised Penal Code, malversation of public funds, and violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Government Procurement Reform Act.
The panel chaired by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rossane Balauag also summoned other incumbent and former government officials and personnel who were named respondents in the charge sheet—Department of Health undersecretaries Carol Tanio, Gerardo Bayugo, Lilibeth David and Mario Villaverde; former 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
Summons were also sent to senior executives of French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur, the developer and manufacturer of Dengvaxia, and Zuellig Pharma, DoH’s supplier of the vaccine, who are facing the same charges.
In their complaint, the VACC and VPCI accused Aquino and the other respondents of committing criminal liability after they allegedly “anomalously and illegally funded and procured the Dengvaxia vaccine and ill-advisedly, thoughtlessly and imprudently implemented the dengue immunization” project of the DoH.
Earlier, the VACC also 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.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II had also tapped the Public Attorney’s Office and National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a fact-finding probe to determine possible liabilities of officials behind the project that was approved during the Aquino administration.
The DoH earlier suspended the implementation of the controversial P3.5-billion dengue vaccine project of the DoJ after Sanofi announced that the drug Dengvaxia could pose health risks to those who had not been exposed to dengue.