Gordon clears Ubial of liability despite Dengvaxia program expansion
MANILA, Philippines – Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Richard Gordon cleared former health secretary Paulyn Ubial of liability in the Dengvaxia controversy, despite her implementation and expansion of the dengue vaccination program.
The administration senator said Ubial, President Rodrigo Duterte's first health secretary, was not the "most guilty" and was only "pressured" to continue the now-suspended program, which was approved by her predecessor Janette Garin during the Aquino administration. (READ: Gordon report: File criminal charges vs Aquino, Garin, Abad over Dengvaxia mess)
"She can be a witness later on. She was pressured. This is our recommendation. As far as we are concerned, she was not the most guilty," Gordon said on Wednesday, April 11, as he released his draft committee report on the issue.
"Nobody is stopping anybody [from filing] a case against her. But in the real world na nakikita ko, talagang puwersado eh (I really see she was only pressured)," Gordon said.
"Remember, dahil at that time wala pa naman, talagang hindi pa lumalabas ang facts na ito, hindi naman sila makapasok agad. Wala pang advice ang Sanofi na nagkamali kami," he added.
(Remember, at that time there were still no facts, they could not act on it yet. There was no advice from Sanofi yet that it had made a mistake.)
On September 28, 2016, Ubial ordered the continuation of the dengue vaccination program in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon. She also ordered the program's expansion in Cebu.
Ubial, in congressional hearings, claimed Congress "pressured" her to continue the program. She said she was very vocal against the proposal to include the dengue vaccine in the national immunization program even when she was still assistant secretary. (READ: New vaccines shouldn't be introduced during an election year – Ubial)
But Garin, in reaction to Gordon's draft panel report, deemed otherwise.
"It was former secretary [Enrique] Ona who declared that there was a dengue epidemic when he was secretary of health. It is manifest that the anti-dengue program was important because secretary-designate Ubial continued and even expanded it! My conscience is clear and I am ready to answer any charge that will be filed in the proper forum," Garin said.
Criminal charges vs DOH execs
Aside from former president Benigno Aquino III, Garin, and former budget chief Florencio Abad, Gordon recommended the filing of criminal charges against the following Department of Health (DOH) officials:
- Dr Julius Lecciones of the Philippine Children's Medical Center
- Dr Kenneth Hartigan-Go
- Dr Lourdes Santiago
- Dr Melody Zamudio, officer-in-charge (OIC) of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Drug Regulation and Research
- Dr Joyce Ducusin
- Dr Mario Baquilod, OIC of the Disease and Control Bureau
Lecciones, Hartigan-Go, and Ducusin were accused of being part of the so-called "DOH mafia" by Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) whistle-blower Francis Cruz. They have denied the allegation. – Rappler.com