3rd plunder raps filed vs. Aquino, 21 others over Dengvaxia

MANILAFormer President Benigno Aquino III and 21 others were again charged with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday over the PHP3-billion immunization program for the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio and Diego Magpantay, president of the Citizens Crime Watch (CCW), filed the 48-page complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against Aquino and the 21 other respondents for plunder, which is a non-bailable offense.

The respondents were also charged with malversation of public funds and violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The other respondents named in the complaint are former Department of Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad, former Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Philippine Children's Medical Center director Dr. Julius Lecciones, former Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Janette Garin, and 17 other former and current DOH officials.

In its complaint, the CCW alleged that Aquino and his co-accused haphazardly planned and procured (Dengvaxia) in gross violation of regulatory processes of the (Food and Drug Administration), the (Formulary Executive Council) and the government procurement laws at the expense of the health of more than 830,000 Filipinos who were administered with the vaccine.

Respondent Aquino, respondent Ochoa, respondent Abad, and respondent Garin had control of funds by reason of the duties of their respective offices. As for the rest of the respondents, their prior, contemporaneous and subsequent acts show their active participation, conformity and commonality of intent and design as respondents Aquino, Ochoa, Abad and Garin with respect to the disbursement of funds, procurement and implementation of the Dengvaxia mass immunization program, the complaint said.

There is likewise no dispute that the PHP3.556 billion allocated for the procurement and implementation of the Dengvaxia mass immunization program were public funds as they were sourced from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund and Pension Gratuity Fund for the fiscal year 2015, it added.

Respondents Aquino, Ochoa, Garin and Abad, with the indispensable cooperation and/or direct participation of the rest of the herein respondents, appropriated and/misappropriated the amount of PHP3.556 billion of public funds by allocating the same for the Dengvaxia Mass Immunization Program in direct contravention with the provisions of the 2015 General Appropriations Act, the complaint read.

This is the third plunder case filed against Aquino and the 21 respondents at the Ombudsman over the PHP3-billion mass vaccination project.

The first plunder case was filed by former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Director General Augusto Buboy Syjuco while the second plunder complaint was filed by the Gabriela party-list. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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