‘Dengvaxia cases up for decision’

The Department of Justice is expected to resolve this month the first batch of criminal cases filed against former Health Secretary Janette Garin and other officials by families of schoolchildren who allegedly died as a result of being given the Dengvaxia vaccine.

On Oct. 30, a panel of prosecutors concluded its preliminary investigation on the first case of Dengvaxia cases.

The panel chaired by Assistant State Prosecutor Maria Emilia Victorio has submitted the case for decision, saying they will try to come up with the resolution this month.

With the preliminary investigation concluded, the DOJ panel will determine whether there exists probable cause to indict the respondents led by Garin for the charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide under the Revised Penal Code and violations of the Anti-Torture Act and Consumer Act filed by families of nine victims.

The first batch of Dengvaxia cases filed in April and May involved the deaths of Aejay Bautista, Angelica Pestilos, Lenard Baldonado, Zandro Colite, Abbie Hedia, Jansyn Bataan, Mark Axel Ebonia, Rey Justin Almagno and Alexander Jaime.

Named respondents along with Garin were nine other DOH officials -- Dr. Vicente Belizario Jr., Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-go, Dr. Gerardo Bayugo, Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, Dr. Irma Asuncion, Dr. Julius Lecciones, Dr. Joyce Ducusin, Rosalind Vianzon, and Mario Baquilod, along with Drs. Socorro Lupisan and Maria Rosario Capeding of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

Incumbent DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III was included in the charge sheet since in two cases, the victims got their Dengvaxia shots during his term.

The executives of manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur named in the complaints are Carlito Realuyo, Sanislas Camart, Jean Louis Grunwald, Jean-Francois Vacherand, Conchita Santos, Jazel Anne Calvo, Pearl Grace Cabali and Marie Esther De Antoni.

The officers of distributor Zuellig Pharma in the charge sheet, on the other hand, are 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.

The respondents were accused of negligence through “arbitrarily, maliciously, and deliberately failure to inform the Dengvaxia recipients and their parents or families of the dangers and risks related to Dengvaxia and to obtain their informed consent.”

The complaints, filed through the assistance of Public Attorney’s Office, cited the failure of the DOH under Garin to conduct proper screening of Dengvaxia recipients and to implement active and aggressive monitoring and surveillance over the recipients considering the risks posed by the vaccine to seronegative recipients or those who had no history of dengue.

The complainants said the respondents “displayed grave recklessness, utter bad faith, lack of foresight, lack of skill, want of care, gross neglect and deliberate, arbitrary and even malicious disregard of the safety and lives of thousands of Filipino children.”

Garin and other respondents denied the criminal charges, arguing they could not be held liable since it was not factually established that the deaths were indeed caused by Dengvaxia vaccine.

Two more batches of cases involving 18 other cases are undergoing separate preliminary investigation before the DOJ.

The second batch involving eight victims - Clarissa Alcantara, Christine Mae De Guzman, Erico Leabres, Roshaine Cariño, Naomi Nimura, John Paul Rafael, Michael Tablate and Christine Joy Asuncion – is being heard by a panel chaired by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Dacanay.

The third batch involving 10 cases, on the other hand, has just been filed last week.

Seven of the victims in this third set of Dengvaxia cases in the DOJ were schoolchildren from Cebu -- Wiljen Alcontin, Eleazar Brigoli Jr., Trishanne Asona, EJ Christian Apa, Joaniña Cortes, Gladimeir Juevesano and Kianah Mae Racuya.

The two other children were Adeline Castroverde from Valenzuela City and Jessica Viaros from Sariaya, Quezon. The 10th complaint was for the death of Senior Police Officer 2 Vicente Arugay from Quezon City.

Apart from the criminal complaints, the PAO has already filed several civil suits before the Quezon City regional trial court.

The PAO has so far documented 96 deaths allegedly caused by Dengvaxia that was reportedly given to over 800,000 schoolchildren nationwide during the anti-vaccine immunization program in the previous administration.

Topics: Department of Justice , Janette Garin , Dengvaxia vaccine , Maria Emilia Victorio
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