PUBLIC Attorney’s Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta is asking President Rodrigo Duterte to veto a special provision in the 2020 General Appropriations Bill removing the P19.5-million budget allocation for its forensic laboratory division.
In a Dec. 11 formal communication, Acosta insisted PAO’s forensic laboratory division was created by “authority of law.”
She took a swipe at lawmakers who backed the P19.5-million slash for PAO’s 2020 budget that would stop the operation of its forensic laboratory to the detriment of victims of injustice.
“The deletion of the budget for the PAO Forensic Laboratory Division’s equipment and the prohibition for the use of PAO’s maintenance and other operating expenses [MOOE] for the operations—effectively intended to stop the PAO Forensic Laboratory Division’s operations, are unconstitutional,” Acosta’s letter read.
In a dzMM radio interview, Acosta said the budget slash was designed to “kill” PAO’s investigation into the deaths of children who got the Dengvaxia vaccines under the Department of Health’s school-based mass vaccination from 2016 until 2017.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin and Senator Franklin Drilon “succeeded” in slashing P19.5 million from PAO forensic laboratory from the capital outlay, and inserting the special provision in the limitation and prohibition on PAO’s use of MOOE for the forensic laboratory division’s plantilla personnel created by the Department of Budget and Management, and President Duterte.
“I am appealing to the President to please veto the provision because that fund is not mine, but to (sic) the Filipino people,” she told the interview.
PAO represented the parents of children whose deaths were linked to Dengvaxia vaccine in the filing of charges of multiple counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide before the Department of Justice against Garin, a former health chief; Health Secretary Francisco Duque III; Philippine Children’s Medical Center executive director Julius Lecciones; other former and active health officials, and executives of the giant manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur Inc. and distributor Zuellig Pharma Inc.
In November 2017, Sanofi Pasteur released an advisory warning that the anti-dengue vaccine posed severe health risks to any person who had not yet been afflicted with the dengue disease.
Meanwhile, Senator Imee Marcos sought VAT exemption for prescriptive medicine, as the Senate continues to tackle taxation policies to fund universal health care.
Medicine for hypertension, diabetes and other maintenance drugs were earlier exempted from the indirect tax so why not do the same for prescriptive medicine, Marcos told reporters.
Marcos downplayed worries that reducing taxes on drugs would lead to less funds for the Department of Health.