Selective evidence? Drilon opposes Gordon's Dengvaxia report vs Aquino
MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon filed his dissenting vote on the draft report of Senate blue ribbon committee chair Richard Gordon recommending criminal charges against former President Benigno Aquino III and his officials over the Dengvaxia mess.
“Upon careful review of the draft report, I would like to inform you that I disagree with its findings, conclusions, and recommendations,” Drilon said in a letter to Gordon on Thursday, April 19.
“We found no conclusive scientific evidence to support the conclusion that any of the reported deaths were in any way connected to Dengvaxia,” Drilon said in his 30-page dissenting vote, citing the results of the PGH Investigative Task Force investigation and the statement of dengue expert Dr Scott Halstead.
As ex-officio member of the committees that probed the issue, Drilon said he is “duty-bound to consider all available evidence before making any conclusion” and warned against selecting evidence “to fit the desired conclusion while hiding or ignoring those that tend to refute it.”
Drilon, a staunch ally of Aquino, also slammed Gordon for his “premature” verdict and politicization of a health issue. (READ: Aquino hits 'Dick Gordon show,' draft report on Dengvaxia)
“Declaring certain personalities guilty at this point would not only be premature but would also reinforce impressions of the politicization of a legitimate public health concern that must be addressed in a clinical manner,” Drilon said.
“If and when it is indubitably established that Dengvaxia is the proximate cause of the deaths in question, all those involved should be made to account – without exception,” he added.
Drilon said the Duterte administration also implemented the dengue vaccination program, saying 280,000 children were vaccinated under Aquino and 400,000 more under Duterte.
Gordon has cleared Duterte's former health secretary, Paulyn Ubial, despite ordering the expansion of the program.
Aside from Drilon, Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Panfilo Lacson also said they would not sign the report. Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, meanwhile, also opposed the recommendations against the former president.
No felony, no haste?
Drilon also questioned Gordon’s use of the felony doctrine in Garcia v. People, wherein the Supreme Court ruled that a person committing a felony is responsible for all the natural and logical consequences resulting from it.
Drilon, a former justice secretary, said this could not apply to the former president because these elements are not present: malice, intentional felony, and the wrong done is the direct, natural, and logical consequence of the act.
He maintained that Aquino acted in good faith, upon the advice and reports of his subordinates. (READ: Noynoy Aquino defends rush in buying dengue vaccine)
“The first element that an intentional felony was committed is conspicuously absent. It is clear that President Aquino did not act with malice or dolo in procuring the vaccine.” Drilon said,
“President Aquino could not have known of the possible adverse effect of the vaccine on seronegatives,” he said, saying there was no evidence of ill effects at the time of purchase.
The minority leader also said Aquino did not commit technical malversation when he authorized the purchase of Dengvaxia, as it is well within his constitutional authority to use the savings to fund the procurement.
Drilon also claimed there was no undue haste in the procurement of the vaccine as the approval was within the timeline provided in the law.
On December 1, 2015, Aquino met with Sanofi Pasteur officials in Paris. Twenty-one days later, the Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration issued its certification for Dengvaxia on December 22.
A week after, on December 29, the Department of Budget and Management released the Special Allotment Release Order to the Department of Health for the procurement of the vaccines.
Drilon pointed out that "the discussion of the dengue problem began in 2010, the problem has been existing for decades, and thus the purchase of the vaccine in 2015 may hardly be characterized as hasty."– Rappler.com