DOJ says no malice in tagging Garin in Dengvaxia ‘mafia,’ junks libel complaint
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) junked the libel complaint filed by former health secretary Janette Garin against a physician and other health officials over accusations that the former was involved in the misuse of Dengvaxia funds.
In a resolution dated September 12, and signed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Lialian Doris Alejo, Garin’s libel complaints were dismissed because the prosecutor found that there was no malice in the statements.
Garin sued Dr Francis Cruz over statements that alleged the former health secretary belonged to a “mafia” inside the Department of Health (DOH), a group that supposedly plundered the P3 billion used to buy the anti-vaccine dengvaxia,
Garin and former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III came under fire after dengvaxia makers Sanofi Pasteur disclosed November last year that the vaccine might lead to more severe symptoms if it was administered on a person who have not yet had dengue.
Cruz was used as a witness by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), a group allied with President Rodrigo Duterte.
Garin also sued former health secretary Paulyn Ubial, undersecretary Teodoro Herbosa, and public health expert Tony Leachon for their respective statements.
According to the DOJ, the respondents “had acted out of the sense of justice, thus negating actual malice.”
Malice is an element of libel. Alejo cited a previous Supreme Court decision which states that “in order to constitute malice, ill-will must be personal. So if the ill will is engendered by one’s sense of justice or other legitimate plausible motive, such feeling negates actual malice.”
“In this case, respondents are medical practitioners, with the moral and legal duty to preserve the life and health of the people,” said Alejo, adding that “the outrage” of the respondents are consistent with the “general outrage” of the public “when many defenseless school children died.”
It has not been scientifically proven that Dengvaxia caused the deaths of school children, as Philippine experts warn against “wild claims” that the vaccine kills people.
Cruz also accused Garin and other officials of employing a “conversion scheme” in their so-called mafia, but Alejo said that without the details of the scheme, there is no specific libellous statement against them.
“In the absence of a specific action attributed to the complainants by the respondents, libel cannot be imputed against respondents,” Alejo said.
The DOJ is handling more Dengvaxia-related complaints, most prominent of which are criminal negligence and technical malversation charges against Aquino and Garin. – Rappler.com