The Supreme Court (SC) has junked the petition for mandamus filed by 70 children through their parents and guardians together with Gabriela partylist group seeking to compel the government to provide free medical services and treatment to children inoculated with the controversial anti-dengue Dengvaxia vaccine.
In an en banc decision, the SC through Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, ruled that granting the petition for mandamus would violate the principle of separation of powers between the three branches of the government—the legislative, executive and judiciary.
“Mandamus does not lie unless the acts to be performed are enjoined by law. The duty of respondent-government agencies to perform the acts must be clearly provided for by law. Neither petitioners nor this Court can order respondent government owned agencies how to perform their functions with respect to any immunization program; otherwise, this Court will effectively usurp the power and prerogatives of the executive in their enactment of their programs,” the SC said.
The SC also stressed that it does not have supervisory powers over executive departments and agencies.
“These administrative agencies possess the competence, experience, and specialization in their respective fields. On the other hand, this Court does not have the expertise to resolve these technical issues,” it said.
Besides, the high court pointed out that a petition for a writ of mandamus is a remedy intended to compel a government agency to perform its obligation to protect and preserve the environment.
“Clearly, the petition for a writ of continuing mandamus before this Court does not involve any ecological right nor does it allege any right involving protection of the environment or he ecology. It mainly invokes alleged violations on the right to health,” the SC said.
“Thus, petitioners cannot resort to this kind of writ. Even if it does, the petition must be dismissed for insufficiency of substance. The acts sought by petitioners to be performed are not enjoined by law as a duty. They are ministerial acts,” it added.
In their petition, Gabriela , the Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia (ARCSEA) together with the mothers and guardians of 70 children administered with the vaccine are demanding the government to provide free services including, but not limited to, medical check-ups, consultations, medical treatment and blood tests to those vaccinated.
They added that these free medical services should continue d until it would have been determined and declared by competent medical and/or scientific experts that the threats brought by the Dengvaxia vaccine have been minimized or eliminated.
The petitioners also asked the SC to direct the respondents—the Department of Health, Department of Interior an Local Government (DILG) and Department of Education—to create a registry of children who were administered with the vaccine to facilitate the delivery of free healthcare services.
Aside from these, the petitioners are asking the Court to compel the respondents to publicly disseminate on a regular basis the report of the task force created and designated to monitor and review the school-based immunization program involving Dengvaxia and submit the same to the House of Representatives and Senate Committees on Health for monitoring.
The petitioners said the government agencies should monitor children in all villages and regions who were injected with the vaccine.
But the SC said the petitioners failed to raise scientific and empirical bases to support the petition.
It noted that no studies and research were presented to show that the Dengvaxia vaccine failed to satisfy health standards.
“There are no sufficient scientific grounds proving grave error in the Food and Drug Administration’s and the Department of Health’s approval and distribution of the vaccines,” the SC said.
The SC stressed that the relief being sought by the petitioners have already been met by the respondents.
It noted that in their memoranda, the respondents claimed that they have been disseminating public information regarding the immunization program of the DOH.
Likewise, the DOH has submitted their reports to Congress while the FDA has been studying and reviewing the safety and efficacy of Dengvaxia.
The DOH also told the Court that it has also been monitoring the children inoculated with Dengvaxia and has offered medical services to them for free.
The SC said a masterlist of children given Dengvaxia was also created, but due to privacy concerns, it cannot be released to the public as advised by the National Privacy Commission.