LAWYER Ferdinand Topacio of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption on Thursday filed another complaint of plunder, malversation of public funds and graft against former President Benigno Aquino III and former Health secretary Janette Garin before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the Dengvaxia vaccine procurement.
Also included in the complaint were ex-Budget secretary Florencio Abad; ex-executive secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.; undersecretaries Maria Carolina Vidal-Taino, Gerardo Bayugo, Lilibeth David and Mario Villaverde; assistant secretaries Lyndon Lee Suy and Nestor Santiago Jr.; directors Laureno Cruz, Irma Asuncion, Maria Joyce Ducusin, Mar Wynn Bello, Leonita Gorgolon, Rio Magpantay and Ariel Valencia; Philippine Children’s Medical Center chief Julius Lecciones; undersecretaries Nemesio Gako, Vicente Belizario and Kenneth Hartigan-Go, and Dr. Yolanda Oliveros.
The case is the third complaint against Aquino before the anti-graft body over the P3-billion mass vaccination project.
Earlier, the VACC filed a complaint of graft, malversation of public funds and violation of the procurement law against Aquino, Abad, Garin, other health officials, and executives of the Sanofi Pasteur and Zuellig Co. before the Justice Department.
In December last year, former Technical, Education and Skills Development Authority chairman Augusto Syjuco filed mass murder and plunder charges against Aquino and Garin before the Ombudsman.
Aquino’s spokesperson, Abigail Valte, said the former president “is ready to respond to their unfounded complaints when required to do so.”
She said the complaint was “more of a ploy [of the complainants] to get more government posts.”
“Even the severely inebriated can see the pattern: anyone who files a complaint against the former president is magically given an appointment,” Valte added.
In a 49-page complaint, the VACC alleged Aquino and his co-accused “haphazardly planned and procured [Dengvaxia] in gross violation of regulatory processes of the FDA [Food and Drug Administration], the FEC [Formulary Executive Council] and the government procurement laws” at the expense of the health of more than 830,000 Filipinos who were administered with the vaccine.
“The undue intervention of the highest officials in the negotiations, the timing of the program, the haste in the release of the budget, the enormity of the amount involved, the use of a fund intended for a different purpose, and the lack of concern [for] the Filipino people who obviously would-be victims, as above-discussed, leave no room for any noble or righteous motive or intention on the part of the respondents,” the complaint read.
The complaint questioned the missing P500 million out of the P3.5 billion allotted for the immunization program, citing an audit report of the Commission on Audit that the Philippine Children’s Medical Center conducted pre-procurement activities ahead of the effectivity of its memorandum of agreement with the Health department.
The legal woes facing Garin and 36 others continue to mount as another set of complainants whose children reportedly died after being inoculated with Dengvaxia vaccines filed criminal charges against them before the Department of Justice.
Assisted by Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, the parents of Mark Axel Ebonia, Rey Justin Almagno, and Alexander Jaime filed complaints for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide under Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code and violation of Republic Act No. 9745 or Anti-Torture Act.
The complainants also accused the respondents of obstruction of justice under Presidential Decree 1829.
This will bring to nine the total number of complaints against Garin and 36 other respondents, in connection with the controversial anti-dengue vaccine.
Acosta said the tragedy would not have occurred had not the Department of Health purchased the untested vaccine and conducted a mass vaccination despite the risks cited by the manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur.
“They knew of the side effects but they still decided to vaccinate a large population,” the PAO chief said.
The PAO filed the charges after its forensic teams established that all nine victims died of organ failure that could be attributed to the vaccine.
Besides Garin, DoH officials who have been named as respondents in the complaints include Vicente Belizario Jr., Kenneth Hartigan-Go, Gerardo Bayugo, Lyndon Lee Suy, Irma Asuncion, Julius Lecciones, Joyce Ducusin, Rosalind Vianzon, Maria Lourdes Santiago and Melody Zamudio of the Food and Drug Administration, and Socorro Lupisan and Maria Rosario Capeding of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.
Executives of Sanofi Pasteur Inc. and distributor Zuellig Pharma Corp. were also included as respondents.
The corporate directors and officers of Sanofi named in the complaint are Carlito Realuyo, Sanislas Camart, Jean Louis Grunwald, Jean-Francois Vacherand, Conchita Santos, Jazel Anne Calvo, Pearl Grace Cabali, and Marie Esther De Antoni.
Those from Zuellig 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.
Also on Thursday, Senator Richard Gordon said he supported the adminitration plan to form a three-person team of foreign health experts to conduct independent scientific research on the impact of the Dengvaxia immunization on the health of the population.
Gordon made the statement after a Commission on Audit report on the PCMC confirmed the Senate Blue Ribbon committee report that the hospital’s purchase of the vaccine in the last months of the Aquino administration violated government procurement rules.