Aquino, Garin, Abad, Ochoa face raps over dengue vaccine

MANILA, Philippines – Gabriela representatives on Friday, December 22, filed a complaint for graft against former President Benigno Aquino III, former Health Secretary Janette Garin, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and former Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr over the dengue vaccine program implemented during their term.

The 23-page complaint filed with the Office of the Ombudsman also implicated private respondents from French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur:

The complainants include Gabriela representatives Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas, Joan Salvador, Madella Santiago, and children from Northville I, Barangay Bignay, Valenzuela City, who were vaccinated with Dengvaxia.

They alleged in their complaint that the public and private respondents, as well as "other Jane and John Does," violated Section 3(e) and 3(g) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and Section 10 of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

The complaint included a timeline of events, from Aquino's meeting with executives from the company in December 2015 to the ongoing investigation of both houses of Congress. 

"It can be gleaned from the foregoing facts that respondents acted with evident bad faith as their actions did not only connote bad judgment, but also showed a palpably fraudulent and dishonest purpose to do a conscious wrongdoing for their own personal gain and/or out of ill motive," the complaint read.

Complainants alleged that "at the very least," Aquino, Garin, Abad, and Ochoa are "guilty of gross inexcusable negligence when they inexcusably failed to duly review and assess the efficacy of the vaccine and to do what was obviously expected of them as public officials."

They said Aquino, Garin, and Abad were all responsible for the issuance of the Special Allotment Release Order to fund the purchase of the vaccines.

"In so doing, respondents made excessive accommodations to Sanofi Pasteur and dispensed with all the cautions and obligations required of them as public officials," the complaint read.

They also alleged that respondents "knowingly and in bad faith compromised the health and safety of the children targeted for vaccination."

"In fact, even if the vaccine turned out to be safe and effective, the fact that the respondents first made the decision before any studies on the vaccine’s safety could be made, will not exonerate them from liability. Moreso, when the circumstances strongly point to respondents getting personal or political gains."

The complainants pointed out that Garin "lied about her meeting with Sanofi Pasteur officials in Paris in 2015." In addition, they said the procurement of the dengue vaccines is "manifestly disadvantageous to the government."

"Respondents’ liability is underlined by the admission of Sanofi Pasteur that the vaccine does not protect and in fact exposes to severe dengue those who have not contracted dengue prior to vaccination."

This is not the first complaint filed against Aquino over the dengue vaccine controversy.

On December 15, former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Augusto "Boboy" Syjuco Jr filed mass murder and plunder complaints with the Ombudsman, accusing Aquino and Garin of "mass murder and other related and resultant crimes through reckless imprudence, and negligence, and plunder and graft and corruption."

The Department of Justice is also set to conduct its own probe.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III suspended the dengue vaccination program on December 1, or a day after Sanofi Pasteur revealed that Dengvaxia could cause more severe cases of dengue if administered on a person who had not been previously infected by the virus.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have since reopened their inquiry into the dengue vaccine. – Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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