Garin, 7 officials file libel complaint vs ‘DOH mafia’ accuser
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Former health secretary Janette Garin has filed libel complaints against former health chief Paulyn Ubial and 3 others over the Dengvaxia controversy.
Garin and 7 more officials from the Department of Health (DOH) filed a libel complaint against Dr Francis Cruz, who had accused them of engaging in mafia-like operations.
Garin filed before the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutors Office libel complaints against Ubial, Cruz, former health undersecretary Teodoro Herbosa, and physician Anthony Leachon.
"I am filing this complaint because I felt so much maligned and dishonored by the malicious statements," Garin said.
"Those public statements were totally by imputing upon me (together with other DOH officials) a crime or of a vice or defect. These statements and imputations made by Dr Ubial have caused dishonor, discredit or contempt upon my person and also as the former Secretary of the DOH and former Representative of the House of Congress representing the First District of the Province of Iloilo," she added.
She called out Cruz for claiming she was part of a "DOH mafia" that supposedly benefited from the use of Dengvaxia in the government campaign against dengue.
"This statement is not only malicious but untrue. To call me and other DOH officials as belonging to a 'Mafia' is purely maliciously statement without any basis. This presupposes that there is a secret organized criminal group or association inside the DOH who are involved in plundering public funds," she said in her complaint.
Garin challenged Cruz to support his allegations with evidence.
The following DOH officials filed their libel complaint before the Office of the City Prosecutor in Manila on Friday, February 23:
- Assistant Secretary Nestor Santiago
- Undersecretary Carol Taiño
- Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo
- Undersecretary Lilibeth David
- Financial Management Service director Laureano Cruz
- Family Health Office officer-in-charge Joyce Ducusin
- Health Promotion and Communication Service officer-in-charge Mar Wynn Bello
Cruz, former health consultant-turned-whistleblower for the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), is the subject of libel complaints filed by officials whom he accused of being part of the so-called “DOH mafia.”
Earlier this week, Philippine Children’s Medical Center executive director Julius Lecciones filed a similar complaint against him in Quezon City.
Cruz alleged that 19 officials, led by ex-health chief Janette Garin, supposedly benefitted from the procurement and implementation of the now-suspended dengue vaccination program. Garin launched the controversial project in April 2016.
Cruz, however, has not produced any documentary evidence to substantiate his claims.
In their libel complaint, the 7 DOH officials called Cruz’s allegations as “totally false, baseless, unfounded, [and] fabricated.”
“We have an unblemished record in our respective careers as public servants. The statements and imputations made by Dr Cruz caused dishonor, discredit, or contempt not only upon our persons… but also as career officers of the DOH,” they said.
DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III himself already denied the existence of the DOH mafia during his confirmation hearing before the Commission on Appointments on January 31.
Taiño and Larry Cruz were also both allowed by lawmakers to substantiate Duque’s statement during the hearing.
The accused called the “avalanche” of libel complaints as a “conspiracy” to silence him.
“I expected this avalanche of libel cases by senior DOH officials. It was a conspiracy then on the Dengvaxia anomalies during the 2016 national elections. It is a conspiracy now in an attempt to harass and silence me,” said Cruz.
“I will continue to unearth the truth and to gain justice for the Dengvaxia victims. I am confident that these libel cases will be dismissed,” he added.
Cruz, the VACC, and the Vanguard of the Philippines Constitution Incorporated filed a graft complaint against Garin, several DOH officials, former president Benigno Aquino III, ex-budget chief Florencio Abad as well as executives of Sanofi Pasteur and its distributor Zuelling Pharma over the controversial Dengvaxia vacicne.
Cruz and the VACC also previously lodged a complaint against the same officials before the Commission on Elections, accusing Aquino of using funds to campaign for the Liberal Party in 2016.
All 8 health officials who filed a complaint against Cruz have Winston Ginez as their legal counsel.
Read a full copy of the 2nd complaint against Cruz below:
– With a report from Jazmin Bonifacio / Rappler.com