Supreme Court of the Philippines

Supreme Court junks petition seeking actions from gov’t on Dengvaxia issue

Jairo Bolledo
Supreme Court junks petition seeking actions from gov’t on Dengvaxia issue

Ben Nabong/Rappler

The High Court says the petition mainly invokes alleged violations on the right to health, but the petitioners use continuing mandamus commonly applied in violations of environmental law

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) junked the continuing mandamus, which sought specific actions from the Philippine government in relation to the Dengvaxia issue – the vaccine used for the prevention of dengue disease.

In a 28-page decision made public on February 6, the SC en banc denied the petition filed by 74 children (represented by their parents) inoculated by the vaccine, along with Gabriela lawmaker Arlene Brosas and other petitioners. The decision was penned by SC Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.

“In all, this Court refrains from intervening in the discretionary functions and prerogatives of the Executive department. Moreover, considering that mandamus may only be granted to enforce clear legal rights provided by law, this Court should dismiss the Petition for Mandamus. ACCORDINGLY, the Petition for Mandamus is DISMISSED,” the decision read.

Named respondents are former Department of Health (DOH) secretary Dr. Francisco T. Duque III, former education chief Leonor Magtolis Briones, Catalino Cuy, Dr. Lyndon L. Lee Suy, and Nela Charade G. Puno.

According to the SC, the petitioners asked for the following in their petition:

  • Public and regular dissemination of the Task Force’s report on the Dengvaxia immunization program
  • Submission of the report to the Congress
  • Creation of a list of children inoculated with Dengvaxia
  • Provision of free medical services to these children and monitor any adverse effect caused by Dengvaxia
  • Provision of free medical treatment and hospitalization if they suffer from a Dengvaxia-related illness
  • Initial and free consultations of inoculated children

The Dengvaxia inoculation became a sensational issue under past administrations. After becoming the first Asian country to approve commercial sale of Dengvaxia in 2015, deaths of children inoculated with the vaccine were reported a year later in the country. (READ: TIMELINE: Dengue immunization program for public school students)

In 2017, the DOH suspended the dengue vaccination program.

The decision

The SC decision stemmed from a petition for continuing mandamus, which is a legal remedy used in relation to environmental law. The High Court noted the use of the said petition, saying that the petition may be used against a government agency or public official that neglects their/his/her performance of an act in relation to environmental law.

“Clearly, the Petition for a Writ of Continuing Mandamus before this Court does not involve any ecological right nor does it allege any right involving protection of the environment or the ecology. It mainly invokes alleged violations on the right to health. Thus, petitioners cannot resort to this kind of writ,” the decision read.

“Even if it does, the Petition must be dismissed for insufficiency of substance. The acts sought by petitioners to be performed are not enjoined by law as a duty. They are not ministerial acts,” the High Court added.

University of the Philippines College of Law lecturer Oliver Xavier Reyes, in a message to Rappler, explained that mandamus is “premised on a claim that the government is neglecting to perform a legal duty.” He added that the writ of mandamus, if granted, would compel the government to perform the said duty.

But in the Dengvaxia petition, the SC reiterated that the petition for continuing mandamus can only be issued in violations of environmental laws, Reyes explained. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.