De Lima to DOH: Stop publicly justifying vaccine issue
MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima urged the Department of Health (DOH) to stop making public justifications in the middle of an ongoing probe into the health department's procurement of pneumococcal vaccines in 2012.
“I...advise DOH officials, including [Health Acting Secretary Janette] Garin, to refrain from making public clarification/justification of such issue, pending the probe," De Lima said in a text message Friday, November 14.
She said the health department's "justifications" should instead be submitted to the Office of the President and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
De Lima's statement comes after Health Secretary Enrique Ona – who is currently on leave – issued a statement Tuesday, November 11, about the department's “independent review committee” created to “look deeper into this issue."
“Hintayin po natin ang ahensyang nag-iimbestiga ukol rito (Let's wait for the agency investigating this matter). Again, we respect the rule of law and we will fully coordinate and cooperate with the authorities,” she added.
Under the directive of President Benigno Aquino III, the NBI began investigating in June the procurement of one million units of Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine 10 (PCV 10) – a vaccine used for the immunization of infants and children against pulmonary diseases – worth over P833 million.
Some sectors said PCV 13 – not PCV 10 – is the “more cost-effective” vaccine against pneumonia, the number one cause of death among Filipino children.
The procurement – part of the department’s Expanded Vaccination Program aimed at vaccinating more than 333,000 children – was said to have been "directed" by Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag, and "made possible by a certificate of exemption issued" by Ona in 2012.
On November 3, the President said that Ona had asked to go on leave so that the Cabinet official can prepare the appropriate response to questions raised by the Chief Executive about the vaccination campaign, among others. (READ: Still satisfied with Ona? Aquino mum)
Aquino, who was asked then if he was satisfied with Ona, said "whether or not I am satisfied (with him) will come after the results of these answers to the questions that were propounded to him." – Rappler.com